Posted: Thu 21st Jan 2021

Council consultant spend drops – as external legal fees increase for people living in or visiting the wrexham area

The Council spent around two thirds less on external consultants in the last financial year, compared to the year before.

Wrexham Council have published information on the external consultants engaged or used by the Council during the financial year 2019/20.

The Council defines a consultant as “A person (not an employee), agency or firm engaged for a limited period of time on a fee basis to carry out a specific task or tasks. A consultant provides subject matter, expertise and/or experience to the council either because it does not possess the skills or resources in-house or which requires an independent evaluation/assessment to be made”.

Although the new details do not look that far back, for some recent context 2015-16 saw a net spend of £1,120,431 and  2016-17 saw a net spend of £1,626,380 on consultants. Those large sums were made up predominantly by Price Waterhouse Coopers , a well documented hire, although there was discussion over which political group was responsible for the commission.

A scoring matrix allows feedback to be measured, with five consultants rated Average or Above Average – with zero rated Below Average by the council.

The “Engagement of External Consultants Register 2019/20” includes all consultants who were appointed in 2019/20 and those who were used during 2019/20 but who were appointed in a previous year.

The latest 2019-20 total spend is listed at £290,485.11 which is made up of £181,259.76 external funding (for example Welsh Government grants or part of projects the council are partners on), with the balance net spend by the council at £109,225.35

The previous year 2018-19 figure is given as a comparison, with the year before seeing £500,870 spent, with £168,391.55 made up of external funding, and £332,479 net spend by the council.

Usage of External Consultants – 1 April 2019 – 31 March 2020

The report explains, “consultant appointments are allocated to the Chief Officer who has ongoing responsibility for the service area”.

Further detail is given on the consultants and funding splits, for example the £100k under Housing and Economy is detailed as “Arcadis” who helped with work on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct & Canal World Heritage Site Management Plan and the Trevor Basin Technical Masterplan. The other consultant is “The Urbanists Ltd” who helped with Mold Road Corridor, Feasibility Report. The overall cost is £100k however that is made up of £12k from Wrexham Council, and £83k from external sources.

A scoring matrix allows feedback to be measured, with five consultants rated Average or Above Average – with zero Below Average.

The data release also includes the cost of external legal services from solicitors and barristers.

A schedule of barristers and solicitors fees 2019-20 shows an increase in spend on external legal services.

In 2019-20 £292,814.51 was spent on barristers, and £48,779.79 on solicitors – totalling £341,594.30

The year previous, 2018-19, shows £207,643.32 spent on barristers and £41,834.23 on solicitors totalling £249,777.55

Detail is provided for the breakdown of barrister and solicitor costs, with Linenhall Chambers in Chester making up £217k of the total £292k fees (excluding VAT). No local firms are listed.

The solicitors list is shorter, with £38k of the £48k bill again a Chester firm (Jolliffe & Co LLP) however there is one local firm on the list, Hopleys GMA, at £433.62 .

For comparison, 2015-16 saw £80,936.09 spent on barristers, and £18,255 on solicitors. The year after, 2016-17, £106,832 was spent on solicitors and £88,768.75 on barristers. 2017-18 saw £64,994.58 on barristers and £177,015.32 on solicitors.

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