News guildhall-council

Wrexham Council’s use of external consultants is set to be scrutinised next week.

On Wednesday afternoon, Councillors on the Customers, Performance & Resources Scrutiny Committee will meet to ‘consider the process for the appointment of external consultants and possible improvements to strengthen controls’.

The report (which can be downloaded here) itself largely details the process of appointing consultants and who is then involved in approving / their justification.

Within the report it states that: “A consultant is defined as being 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 resource in-house or which requires an independent evaluation/assessment to be made.”

Last February the Wales Audit Office published “The Procurement and Management of Consultancy Services” which focused on “whether the public bodies in Wales are procuring and managing consultancy services in a way that delivers good value for money.”

The report adds: “Although public bodies in Wales have reduced their expenditure on consultants, they cannot demonstrate value for money in the planning, procurement and management of consultancy services.

“An audit of the appointment of consultants in March 2013 gave Red Amber assurance that controls were effective.  A similar audit is currently in progress.  A verbal update on these reports will be presented at the meeting.”

The Council’s use of external consultants is one that has come under fire over the past few months, particularly in light of the ongoing ‘cuts’ / ‘reshaping’ of local services.

In December 2013 a Freedom of Information Request submitted via Whatdotheyknow.com, revealed that over £51,000 had been spent on external consultants for the recent review of leisure facilities in the town.

The FOI stated that the amount paid to consultants as part of the Leisure Review was in two stages. £26,760 was paid in stage 1 of the review and £25,000 in stage 2 giving a total of £51,760. You can read our full report from December here.

More recently the future of the Memorial Hall has been questioned after an FOI published by Whatdotheyknow.com revealed that the building had been listed amongst ‘leisure review’ consultant emails. You can read our report here.

What do you think of the use of External Consultants? Do they provide a professional and skilled perspective, or are they a waste of money? You can join in with the debate on our forums here