Consultants - can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Especially, it seems, if you run Wirral Council.
The use of consultants, ‘interim’ directors and ‘Executive Policy Officers’ when used sparingly, temporarily and in moderation, can be a good thing – a fresh pair of eyes, new ideas and filling a gap in the ‘in house’ expertise.
But, here in Wirral, consultants have become the norm. Whatever the issue, appoint some consultants. Whatever the problem, let’s get some consultants.
Here’s one example: the ‘review’ of leisure, libraries and cultural services. The Cabinet that runs this Borough, comprising nine Labour Councillors hand-picked by the Council Leader, is reviewing these services using consultants which, according to the unions, are costing taxpayers £311,000.
That’s £311,000 that could be used on services. Instead it is being paid to someone from outside Wirral to write a report, that may, or may not, have been written for other councils before, making a series of recommendations that may, or may not (depending on the level of public outcry) be implemented.
Note to all school leavers: thinking of your future career? Become a consultant. You’ll make a mint, can probably retire at 40 and will never have to answer for your recommendations.
It doesn’t stop there. Those employed at the top of the Town Hall are also now being paid more than ever.
Six years ago, when many people were first having their pay or benefits frozen, the cost of senior directors was £860,000. According to the Council’s latest published accounts, (p96) this has now reached £1.1 million. And that’s before the addition of the latest jobs created in the aftermath of the ‘crisis’ in Children’s Services.
Indeed, the post of Chief Executive now costs Wirral £192,256, up from £145,330 six years ago. That’s more than the salary of Secretary General of the United Nations, by the way.
Not much evidence of the pay cap there then.
Instead, in the bizarre world of local politics, those in charge lecture the rest of us that these salaries, and the consultants, are needed to cope with the effects of ‘austerity’. But austerity for who exactly? For the senior directors? Nah. For the consultants? As if.
Alternatively, the ‘pesky’ Conservative Councillors are lectured that the Council needs to pay these salaries to ‘attract the best’. Well, if the Council is employing ‘the best’, why do we need so many consultants as well?
It’s almost as though those at the top, be they councillors or senior directors, are so afraid to take a decision that they employ consultants in an attempt to shift the blame if it doesn’t work out, but take the credit if it all goes well.
So what would I do? Simple, stop creating jobs that pay more than the Prime Minister; trust the staff and the service users a lot more and use consultants a lot less.
What do you think? Let me know firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s not rocket science and, as a favour to the Leader of the Council, this advice comes for free!
Councillor Ian Lewis
Conservative Councillor for Wallasey Ward and Leader of the Conservative Group