THE chief executive of Worcester City Council has defended the use of expensive outside consultants – saying the council hasn’t got the “expertise” in-house to avoid it.
The council is spending £30,000 on using consultants to review car parking, and has also sought outside help in preparing a case for a new £13 million swimming pool.
As your Worcester News revealed in September, bosses spent £73,733 on consultants last year, double the previous year.
It has also emerged that outside help has been sought in reviewing the council’s entire fleet of vehicles and how to make sure the costs of maintaining it are kept as low as possible.
Managing director Duncan Sharkey, speaking at a meeting of the audit committee, said external people offer a “specific skills set”.
“Independent advisers are used where they’ve got ex-pertise in a certain area,” he said. “If you take fleet management, it’s not an area where we’d necessarily ex-pect to have that skill set in-house.” During the meeting some opposition councillors suggested the help could be wasting money.
Councillor Richard Boorn, Labour’s finance spokes-man, said: “I went to a scrutiny meeting last month where we discussed car parking, and the presentation we were given was stuff a kid taking his GCSEs could have come up with. I’m concerned that if we’re paying for advice, it’s got to be better than that.”
Mr Sharkey said: “In terms of car parking, that work by the consultants has not finished yet, it’s still ongoing.
“We needed to better understand the data and could have done it ourselves, but they’ve got the software and people to look at it.
“We paid a reasonable rate for it. If we can’t do the work ourselves or have the capacity to do it, that’s when we go outside the organisation.”
Car parking prices in Worcester are set to be slashed as low as 40p for half-an-hour, subject to agreement by full council on Tuesday, November 27.
Of the city council’s spending on consultants last year, £35,000 went on a leadership development programme for 60 senior workers.