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Date: 23 March 2010

Private consultants cost Scots councils £42m in a year

UNISON – the union representing staff delivering local services – today said that savings of over £40m could be made from local council costs, by cutting back on the amount of use they make of private consultancy firms.

Using the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act (FOI), the union asked all councils what they spent on consultants last year, and the figures that have so far been received - from 28 of 32 councils – show that last year councils poured over £42m of public money into the pockets of these private firms. Earlier figures obtained by the union show that nearly £6m of this went to one firm – KPMG, who are busy advising Scotland’s councils where they can save money by cutting services, staff and conditions.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, said:
“Rather than concentrating on cutting services, politicians and the media might profitably look more closely at cutting the use of private consultants in local councils if there is a need to save money. UNISON has published an alternative budget at UK level that highlights much waste that could be saved including by ending central government use of consultants*, and this waste could also be cut in Scotland.”

The union also points to the huge increase in the Scottish Governments public service reform budget as a contributory factor in the high use of consultants.

Dave Watson said:
“It is clear that the use of consultants is hugely increased by the demand for reorganisations, shared services and investigating outsourcing services. Given the Scottish Government’s drive towards these, it is ironic that our earlier FOI question on the national use of consultants was refused by the government, and by the Improvement Service – who advise councils on this topic. We suspect that this information would drive up the amount of money wasted on private consultants.”

The council spending the most on consultants last year is City of Edinburgh, where the council is involved in a number of initiatives aimed at investigating outsourcing a huge raft of public services. They spent £6.4m last year on consultants. One consultant was adviser to Lehmann Brothers, Ernst & Young.

Dave Watson said:
“It is scandalous that it is same firm that endorsed Lehman Brothers’ methods of business-leading to the major world recession-that is now advising massive privatisation to Edinburgh City as their solution to the financial crisis, earning a nice fee for them as consultants. Our information is that Edinburgh plans to increase its spending on consultants as a part of this wasteful and damaging exercise.”

ENDS

Note for editors: *UNISON’s alternative budget is at - http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/18887.pdf
If you require more information on the expenditure of councils, please contact Chris Bartter (below)

For Further Information Please Contact:
Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) 07958 122 409(m)
Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)

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