Islington Council accused of spending millions on consultants while scrapping jobs

Cllr John Gilbert

Cllr John Gilbert - Credit: Archant

Town hall bosses have come under fire for spending more than £4million on highly-paid consultants in the same year they laid off 116 permanent staff.

The figures, unearthed by the opposition Lib Dem group, show Islington Council forked out a whopping £4.2million on external staff between April 2012 and February this year, costing taxpayers the equivalent of £11,500 every single day.

Meanwhile, since 2010, the council has laid off 418 members of staff.

They are unable to say how much redundancy payments have cost, but their budget for 2011 to 12 shows they spent £2.6million on 154 redundancies, so the total could be more than £7million.

Cllr John Gilbert, the Lib Dem’s finance spokesperson, said: “At a time when the council should be prioritising its spending, Labour councillors seem to think it is acceptable to spend millions on expensive consultants rather than on the front-line services and staff.

“They promised to cut waste in their manifesto, but this is yet another example of wasting residents’ money when times are tough.”

He added: ”Spending precious money on consultants and agency staff is a false economy especially if they are doing the work laid-off council staff did previously.”

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Henry Zarb, Islington Coordinator for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers will be appalled the council has been spending £11,500 of their hard-earned cash every day on external consultants.

“Hiring outsiders like this is usually far more expensive than paying permanent staff to do a job and at a time when everyone’s budgets are under pressure, this bill is totally unacceptable.

“Serious questions need to be asked of those who sanctioned this spending so that they can be held to account.”

The figures come from the council’s own expenses – but the town hall claim even though some expenditure is listed as consultants, the cash is actually going on worthwhile services.

Cllr Richard Watts, Islington Council’s executive member for finance said: “These accusations about our use of consultants are rubbish.

“Many of the payments the Lib Dems are complaining about are actually to vital front line organisations like Centre 404, Palace for All and even Conewood Children’s Centre – not consultants.”

He added: “We only use consultants when we do not have the expertise in-house and to help us operate efficiently and provide better services to residents.

“Our use of consultants is a very small fraction of our wage bill.”