Local authorities in Wales have spent more than £56 million in recent years on external consultancy fees, according to a Freedom of Information request by Janet Finch-Saunders AM.
The Aberconwy AM and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Local Government asked all 22 local authorities to outline external consultancy spend in each of the last five financial years. Nine local authorities either failed to reply within deadlines, or declined to disclose figures.
The responses reveal vast differences in consultancy spend throughout Wales, with biggest spenders in 2015/16 (Anglesey) splashing £2.6m on consultants, compared to a figure of £154 for the lowest.
Meanwhile, spending at several councils in 2015/16 rose sharply from 2014/15: including Ceredigion – by 149% (from £800k in 14/15 to £2m in 15/16).
Annual spend on consultancy fees dipped last year overall (based on responses to date), but figures for 2015/16 indicates a rise of 30% since 2011/12: from £9,180,188 to £11,893,336.
Commenting on the findings, Mrs Finch-Saunders said:
“Considering the vast array of civil servants and officers employed by local authorities, it is deeply disappointing that more has not been done to curb this expenditure.
“Whilst some specialist external advice is obviously warranted, the scale of this expenditure is eye-watering.
“Yet this could be the tip of the iceberg because the true figure isn’t known, with far too many councils either not holding the information – or refusing to disclose it.
“It’s simply unacceptable. Government expenditure of all types needs to be properly monitored and scrutinised, and we need to see greater openness and transparency, on top of a concerted drive to reduce the amount of taxpayers’ cash spent on consultancy.”