Scandal of Sheffield Council’s consultancy fees

Sheffield Town Hall
Sheffield Town Hall

Sheffield Council is paying consultants wages of up to £800 a day, new figures show today.

The Star can reveal the authority has been paying one adviser £800 a day for providing ‘high quality expertise’ to its special educational needs team.

Meanwhile, unions say several more consultants are currently on £600 to £700 a day working on a redesign of social care services.

In total, the council spent £4.7 million on consultants over the 12 months to the end of November.

Sheffield Council has just announced £50 million of cuts for 2013/14, including £30 million to front-line services which could see up to 14 libraries shut, closure of Don Valley Stadium and Stocksbridge Leisure Centre and the end of grants to provide activities for young people.

Some 600 council staff are set to lose their jobs on top of 1,400 posts which have been axed over the last two years.

A council spokesman said: “We needed high quality expertise on special educational needs funding and rather than have a full time post, we used a consultant for a time limited piece of work.”

Sheffield Council said the fee for the £800-a-day consultant includes an agency fee and other costs.

The post was approved by Jayne Ludlam, the council’s acting executive director of children and young people’s services.

Coun Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for finance, said: “Spending on consultants is appropriate at times when they are helping us with particular projects where there is not the expertise within the council.”

Rod Padley, branch secretary for trade union Unison at Sheffield Council, said: “It’s scandalous but not surprising – the council is spending a total of £15 million a year on agency staff including the consultancy bill.

“We should not be paying people this kind of money when the council is in its current situation.

“Only recently, I talked to a consultant who was on around £800 a day in a school who was saying she was planning a year off because she could afford to.

“It’s disgusting that such people can earn Premiership footballer-style wages when other staff are having to take redundancy.”

Grenville Wilkinson, of Walkley Community Forum, which is campaigning to save the local library from possible closure, said: “I’m totally disgusted that the council is spending excessive amounts of money on consultants when they are cutting services.

“They are getting more in a day than some pensioners are receiving in a month.”

And Nick Howard, of Sheffield Pensioners’ Action Group, said: “Members of our group will be furious to hear of these wages when they are struggling with everyday bills.

“The expertise these consultants bring should be there already and special needs is not such a specialist area of education - it’s been around for years.”

Coun Simon Clement-Jones, opposition Liberal Democrat finance spokesman at the council, said: “Labour’s council leader has claimed the reductions in the council’s budget could lead to riots in the streets.

“Couldn’t this £4.7 million have been better spent on the services local people really care about?”