Labour county councillors express outrage as figures reveal millions “squandered” on consultants as Tory West Sussex axe services for the very poorest
Research by Labour county councillors, together with a recent Freedom of Information request by a member of the public, have exposed the shocking truth that, while the Tory leadership has been ruthlessly cutting back frontline services over recent years, at the same time they have been lavishly spending millions of pounds of council taxpayers’ money on consultants.
This includes £4.6 million on PriceWaterhouseCoopers conducting a “transformation of services” review for the Chief Executive, authorised by the Tory Leader of the council Louise Goldsmith. Labour councillors have questioned the effectiveness of this and are calling for an immediate freeze on any further consultancy spending.
West Sussex county council has been increasingly caught by massive funding cuts by the central Tory Government, yet has still managed to make huge spending commitments for corporate bureaucracy, which appear to have delivered few results.
- Freedom of Information responses from West Sussex County Council have revealed that the following payments were made, or have been allocated to PriceWaterhouseCoopers:
2018/19 £2,455,000 (plus a reference to future years)
- Research by Cllr Jones on behalf of the West Sussex Labour Group has revealed £3.8 million has already been spent on PriceWaterhouseCoopers by the council, with a further £800,000 earmarked by the county council for this and future years, but yet to be spent, bringing the grand total of committed spending so far to £4.6 million.
- The revelations come barely a week after the Tory controlled council voted down a Labour motion, supported by all members of the opposition at the council but rejected by the Tory majority, that would have reinstated all funding for the home support fund.
- The home support fund is the annual budget which pays for the county’s homeless hostels and day centres, homeless prevention teams, the Foyer accommodation schemes for vulnerable young adults, domestic violence shelters across the county, and much of the floating support for elderly people in sheltered accommodation, and Extra Care housing.
- Those services are currently paid for by £6 million worth of funding from the county council, but the Tory leadership at West Sussex County Council are considering the abolition of the fund.
Labour County Councillor Michael Jones (Southgate and Gossops Green), responding to these revelations, said: “People will react with sheer dismay when they learn of the obscene amount of money that has been squandered by the County Council.
“The public won’t forgive the Tories for cutting money on the services to the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities, at the same time they’re handing over millions of pounds to a multinational company.
“It makes me furious that in a week where they refused to guarantee the funding that will protect people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, there is still room to pay for things like this, which are very similar amounts. It very much looks like the wrong priorities.
“There should be an immediate freeze on any further use of consultancies, while the county council remains under its current financial pressures, any money put aside for these purposes should instead be used for the services we ought to be providing.”
Labour West Sussex Group leader, councillor Sue Mullins agreed with Cllr Jones, adding: “There is precious little evidence that this council has got any benefit at all from this consultancy. The county council already employs many senior, and very highly paid, members of staff who should be capable enough of finding ways to make savings and re-organise service delivery, without needing to get a large bunch of external consultants in.
“It has been like an expensive train set for the Chief Executive and Cabinet, but it is a political failure by the Tories that it has been allowed to go on for so long, while the council’s finances have reached crisis point. I believe people will judge it accordingly.”