Council spends £1.5m on 'mystery consultants'

PUBLISHED: 09:54 06 February 2008 | UPDATED: 10:14 22 July 2010

MORE than £1.5million of taxpayers' money has been spent on private consultants by Islington Council in just one year, it has been revealed.

MORE than £1.5million of taxpayers' money has been spent on private consultants by Islington Council in just one year, it has been revealed.

Dozens of private consultants were paid up to £250,000 each from council funds - many for work of a nature the council will not to disclose.

One firm, paid £53,000 of taxpayer's money, is simply listed as "xxxxx" in documents Islington Council was forced to show the Gazette after a Freedom of Information request.

Campaigners say it is "very troubling" that taxpayers are not even being told what their cash is being spent on.

Last year £31,100 was spent on communication consultants - dubbed "spin doctors" - to improve the council's image, on top of the annual seven figure sum the council spends on publicity staff.

A firm of property consultants had mobile phone bills paid from council coffers. On top of its £70,897 bill to Islington, taxpayers' money was used to pay eight mobile bills at £45 each.

Matthew Elliot, of the Taxpayers Alliance, said: "It seems like an awful lot to spend on consultants. They lay off their own staff only to re-hire them as consultants - at a much higher cost. Then they claim they are being efficient by reducing the number of staff - but in reality they waste more money.

"Councils also use consultants to distance themselves from unpopular decisions. They get consultants to take the flak."

He added: "People are sick of councils who spend money on spin doctors than lowering Council Tax."

His views were echoed by Councillor James Murray (Labour), who said: "It doesn't look like value for money. It is worrying that we are not told what most of this money is for."

Councillor Terry Stacy, deputy leader of Islington council, said: "We keep a firm rein on expenditure - it's the reason our Council Tax is below the London average. Consultants have specialist skills to help deliver services. We spend a modest amount compared with some boroughs.

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