Consultants who were controversially paid millions to find savings at Norfolk's biggest council have been ditched after just a year.

Norfolk County Council has decided not to take up the option to retain consultants brought in on a £1.9m contract to undertake a major review at County Hall.

The Conservative-controlled council agreed, in April last year, to employ PA Consulting Group to carry out the strategic review.

Eastern Daily Press: Andrew Jamieson, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for financeAndrew Jamieson, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for finance (Image: Norfolk County Council)

However, Andrew Jamieson, the council's cabinet member for finance, confirmed the option to keep PA Consulting on for a further year will not be taken up.

A county council spokesman said: "We are now in a better position to use our internal capacity for future efficiencies as a result of the review, as such we have decided against exercising the option to extend the contract."

Eastern Daily Press: Tom McCabeTom McCabe (Image: Supplied)

The council recently agreed to appoint Tom McCabe as its chief executive, moving away from the executive leader model introduced by former leader Andrew Proctor.

The council says £17m of cuts and savings in this year's budget were identified through the help of consultants working on the review.

The number of jobs to be lost, as a result, is still not clear.

The authority says 77 vacant posts have been removed and 26 staff are taking voluntary redundancy, but the final figures will not be confirmed until later in the year.

Eastern Daily Press: Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County CouncilSteve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council (Image: Archant)

Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group, said: "I’m pleased the consultants have been ditched but there should be no need for them in a well-managed organisation.

"The urgent need to bring back the chief executive role, that should never have been abolished, is evidence the Conservative cabinet hasn't got a grip."

Eastern Daily Press: Liberal Democrat group leader Brian WatkinsLiberal Democrat group leader Brian Watkins (Image: Liberal Democrats)

Brian Watkins, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at the council, said: "We warned against spending exorbitant amounts of money on consultants.

"What I find staggering is that they have so much experience among their own staff, who know the organisation better than any external appointments, yet they do not draw on their knowledge."


Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquartersNorfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters (Image: Mike Page)

The use of consultants by councils is a common practice, but it does tend to provoke controversy.

They get paid millions of pounds for the work they do. And, that, for the taxpayer can be baffling.

Given councils already have salaried officers, it can seem odd that authorities feel they need to recruit external experts.

Councils argue that the fresh eyes of consultants can identify savings, such as by stripping out entrenched duplication of roles, that internal staff either do not spot or are unwilling to remove.

But perhaps one of the reasons the services of these consultants are not being retained is because the arrival of Kay Mason Billig as the new county council leader has triggered a number of changes.

The council says it is now in "a better position" to use its own "internal capacity for future efficiencies".

It would seem it is no coincidence that, now Tom McCabe has been made chief executive - a role which gives him more autonomy over the running of the council as an organisation - that the authority has decided the consultants do not need to be kept on.