A Labour councillor is fighting back against reports that Manchester City Council has been wasteful in spending almost £20million on consultants’ fees over the last three years.
Based on information obtained by Lib Dem councillor Victor Chamberlain, and media reports condemned the council for their multimillion spending on consultancy fees.
Marc Ramsbottom, who is standing to be the first Lib Dem MP for Manchester Central in November’s upcoming by-election, launched a scathing attack on Labour in light of the figures, which include £6,744,386 in 2009/2010, £7,422,133 in 2010/2011 and to £4,784,065 in 2011/2012.
He said: “It is an insult to residents that our arrogant Labour Council is cutting frontline services whilst handing over vast sums to consultants.
“It is simply wrong for the council to be cutting lollipop wardens and putting Surestart centres at risk so they can line the pockets of well-off consultants.
“The council is obviously embarrassed over these figures.”
The comments however, which were widely reported, are being labelled ‘short sighted and misleading’ by Labour councillor Jeff Smith.
He said: “The figures quoted use a very broad definition of consultants. This includes experts and contractors hired on a time-limited basis to provide specialist skills and knowledge.
“We only do this where these needs cannot be met from within the council’s workforce, and roles involved range from engineers, surveyors, and architects, to barristers providing expert legal advice.”
Councillor Smith also believes that it is inaccurate to say that the council spent £18.9million ‘at the same time as making £109million of cuts’, as was reported by media outlets yesterday.
The information obtained by the Lib Dem councillor relates to three financial years, 2009/2010, 2010/2011 and 2011/2012. However, only in the last of these financial years had the government’s national austerity measures taken place.
And the Labour councillor wants it to be noted that spending on consultants fell markedly from almost £7.5million in 2010/11 to £4.7million in 2011/12, directly in response to the cuts.
He said: “We are committed to keeping down our spending on external experts wherever possible, as reflected in the reduced figure for the last financial year.
“The majority of the experts we’re talking about are people like engineers, architects and surveyors working on major projects or barristers giving expert legal advice.
“If the Lib Dems had their way we would be in the same trouble as their government, which sacked specialist consultants working on the West Coast Main line project, and ended up with an expensive fiasco because of the lack of financial expertise.”