North Norfolk District Council reveals how much it has spent on outside consultants in last three years - and it may surprise you
- Credit: Archant
The question was raised following concerns over the local authority's decision to employ a consortium led by property and construction consultancy Gleeds to review its assets.
North Norfolk District Council has defended its use of external consultants after it emerged it has paid out almost half a million pounds in fees to private firms in the last three years.
The local authority insisted the costs represented 'good value for money' for taxpayers.
It pointed out the £154,468 spent up until March 22 in the latest financial year - 2016/17 - amounted to just 1.1 per cent of the council's overall budget.
That was less than the £190,283.28 cost of employing external consultants in the previous financial year - 2015/16; and slightly more than the £121,239.73 paid out in fees in the financial year 2014/15.
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The figures were obtained by this newspaper following a Freedom of Information request prompted by questions over the council's decision to employ a private firm to review its assets as part of its controversial asset commercialisation programme.
Steve Blatch, Head of Paid Service at North Norfolk District Council, said: 'The use of consultants is widespread in local government and represents good value for money as it provides access to technical specialist expertise which would be more expensive to employ in house.
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'The council benefits from the wider experience and expertise aligned with the council's local knowledge and experience.'
The council paid £34,756.25 to property and construction consultancy Gleeds, to support the council's asset commercialisation agenda, between April 2016 and March 2017.
However, the local authority hopes to recoup the cash through the savings it makes.
It follows the local authority's decision to cash in on its assets to improve its long-term financial position.
Four sites have already been identified for development - Grove Lane depot in Holt; Beach Road in Wells, and the car parks at Cadogan Road in Cromer and Highfield Road in Fakenham.
And now it has emerged that a further 177 council-owned properties, from commercial properties through to administrative buildings, could also be under review.
However, proposals to build a budget hotel on the car park site in Cromer and drive ahead with a restaurant development in Wells have attracted much local opposition.
The full list of consultants paid by the council in the last financial year to March 22 is as follows:
ACS LTD 1,050.00 Council Tax Support Scheme consultancy fees - to help advise and support with the updating of the new local residents scheme
ARLINGCLOSE LTD 12,931.60 Treasury Advisory Service consultancy fees to provide advice in relation to gaining maximum benefit from the Council's investment portfolio
GLEEDS ADVISORY LTD 34,756.25 Strategic Property Development Partnership to support the Council's asset commercialisation agenda
ST LA HAYE LIMITED 13,508.00 Coast defence consultancy to advise on the protection of the Council's coastal frontage
KPMG LLP 14,000.00 Tax advice
NPS PROPERTY CONSULTANTS LTD 4,520.00 Design/procure Walcott Apron Stage 14 - coast protection consultancy advice
ARLINGCLOSE LTD 4,335.00 Consultancy advice re loans - to maximise investment returns to the Council while supporting local housing development
BEACON PLANNING LTD 7,558.35 Bodham and Selbrigg Wind Turbine Inquiry
CANHAM CONSULTING LTD 1,859.00 Building Control professional consultancy services
EAST OF ENGLAND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION 250.00 Tender consultancy advice
IGNITE 16,433.98 Planning Bussiness Process Review consultancy advice - part of the Council's BPR/Digital Transformation agenda forecast to save c£135k pa
INTERCALL CONFERENCING SERVICES LTD 1,600.00 Phone system consultancy skype4B - part of the Council's BPR/Digital Transformation agenda forecast to save c£135k pa
LAMAR EXELL DESIGN LTD 4,022.55 Building Control professional consultancy services
HELEN MITCHELL 5,175.00 Deep History Coast consultancy - to support the £2m Coastal Communities Fund bid
NWES 15,255.00 STEM Centre proposals consultancy advice - to support the potential development of a STEM centre in North Walsham
SHARED SERVICE ARCHITECTURE LTD 12,913.34 Shared services consultancy advice
STUART MICHAEL BIZLEY (SMB) PROPERTY CONSULTANCY LTD 2,800.00 Housing Strategy viability appraisal consultant
ALEX SOAR 1,500.00 Business transformation consultancy work - part of the Council's BPR/Digital Transformation agenda forecast to save c£135k pa
Speaking following an announcement on the council's partnership with Gleeds, Councillor Judy Oliver, North Norfolk District Council's Cabinet Member for Commercialisation, said: 'By working with Gleeds, the Council can call on a vast range of commercial expertise to help us realise the greatest benefit from our assets. It's the best of both worlds, bringing together private sector acumen and public service ethos to benefit people in the district.
'This appointment will help us to adopt a more commercial approach, improve the council's long-term financial position, support economic growth and improve public services.'