Consultants’ £400k for alliance advice

A Strategic Alliance between two councils has cost more than £450,000 in fees to outside consultants a group has claimed

The “staggering’ sums paid out by High Peak Borough and Staffordshire Moorlands District councils over the last three years were revealed following a request from a Staffordshire-based political group.

Roger Cannon from the Moorlands Democratic Alliance said: “We were advised in the press three years ago that the High Peak Council alliance with Staffordshire Moorlands District Council would cost nothing.”

“Constantly we are being reminded from many quarters that the alliance has been, and, will continue to be our joint saviour.”

He said: “It transpires that the alliance actually cost a staggering £448,463.36 in outside consultancy fees to set up and get running.”

During the last three financial years sums ranging from £1,000 to £105,384.38 were paid to 11 consultancy firms. They include a total of £158,000 paid to Sector Treasury Services Ltd and £118,0000 to Tim Chesworth Associates Ltd.

However Councillor Emily Thrane, High Peak’s Executive Member for Corporate Services, defended the spending.

“High Peak and Staffordshire Moorlands Councils, like most local authorities, use consultants when it is necessary and cost-effective to do so, in particular to carry out work of a specialist nature,” she said.

“The development of the Strategic Alliance was pioneering and ground-breaking.

“Independent external legal, financial and personnel advice and expertise were essential to ensure that the interests of both councils were protected and the new arrangements worked in the best possible way.”

She said the expenditure of nearly £450,000 – shared between the two councils – received substantial government funding through grants from both the East and West Midlands Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships.

“Taking this into the account, the shared net cost was actually £230,000. The approach also levered in a further £100,000 in grant funding towards the capital cost of the IT infrastructure required.

“We are delighted with the results achieved from such a modest investment,” added Cllr Thrane.

“The Alliance has realised £3 million in continuing efficiency savings so far with a further £3.3 million set to follow over the next three years.

“It has enabled both Councils to respond to the most challenging local government financial settlement for a generation in 2011/2012 with no increase in council tax and a commitment to maintaining priority frontline services for their residents.

“It is hardly surprising that other councils up and down the country are now adopting the same approach to tackling their own financial pressures”.