Interview with Cllr Mike Fletcher Chairman Sustainable Growth Scrutiny Committee Peterborough City Council following the meeting on Monday 15th March 2010 where Council was invited to account for it’s spending on consultants. Broadcast at 07:45 on 16th March 2010 in Paul Stainton’s BBC Peterborough Breakfast Show.
PS: Now a review has begun into the amount of money the City Council spends on consultants. You may remember last week we broke the news that we’d spent something like .. was it nine million or something like that I don’t know? It was a million pounds a month, wasn’t it? Something like that. Five councillors will now spend six months looking at the cost of experts, and the amount of money they save the Council. It was twelve million, wasn’t it? We revealed on the Breakfast Show that it was twelve million for this financial year and Cllr. Mike Fletcher is Chairman of the Sustainable Growth Scrutiny Committee. Morning Mike.
MF: Good morning.
PS: The purpose of the meeting?
MF: Well to enquire into the use of consultants, and see just how effective they are. I can assure you that if I have anything to do with it, it’s not going to take six months, more like six weeks.
PS: Yes. Good stuff. What did you ask for?
MF: We asked for how many consultants are employed? At what cost? What are they doing? What have they achieved? Now we’re told what they’ve achieved, but I’ve never seen any evidence of what they’ve achieved. All we want is clarity.
PS: They pay for themselves, just like everything at Peterborough City Council, it pays for itself said Marco Cereste on this show
MF: That’s right. That’s what they say. It pays for itself, and for every pound invested we’ve got five pounds in return. Well I want to see the evidence of that. Because if we’ve spent twelve million pounds, then we should have seen sixty million pounds back. And as Marco often says, “I can’t make the figures add up.”
PS: You naughty man. What did you find out? What have you found out so far?
MF: Well not a lot actually. We had the meeting last night, that of the Scrutiny Committee, and we had a lengthy report, that took me one and a half hours to read. It was full of local government gobbledegook, and it did not answer the relevant questions plainly and simply. So that’s why the Committee decided that a Working Group should be formed to go into it in a much greater depth, so that we can inform the citizens of Peterborough exactly where their money’s going and what they’re getting in return. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.
PS: Not at all. No. We’ve had a look through the Report. You can tell why they’ve spent money on consultants for some things, but for others you just wonder what the heck the people at the City Council are doing that they can’t do the job. They spent money on a Human Resources Team that “reduced positions delivering six hundred thousand annual savings.” Well couldn’t we do that in-house? We don’t need consultants for that do we?
MF: Well you hope so. If we’re paying senior officers a hundred thousand pounds a year plus, I would expect them to have the same qualifications that a consultant has got. There again, I don’t think that’s unreasonable.
PS: No. There are some pretty odd things that sort of stick out of the report, aren’t there?
MF: Yes, but then again, by the time you’ve ploughed through all that lot, you’ve just lost the will to live virtually. All we asked for was some answers to some simple questions. And we got all that lot.
PS: This was the last meeting of this Committee wasn’t it?
MF: It is yes. The last official meeting of the civic year. And come May, there may be a whole new Committee formed, depending on who is the Leader at the time, I might not even be the Chairman of that Committee, so it’s all in the lap of the gods. But until the end of the year, and whilst I am still the Chairman, I intend to get on with this pretty quickly, so that we can have a Report before the municipal year ends.
PS: What happens now then, with this review? Where do you go? What’s your first move?
MF: First move is that Secretaries of the various Groups, this is the Independents and such have to be contacted, to put forward names of people who will join the group of five. That’s the first thing. Once that group is formed, we shall be asking for a list of consultants, we shall want to define what are consultants, and what are contractors, so that there’s a clear definition, and as I said we want a list of consultants and then we will put forward some questions to say: what are these people doing, what are they paid, and more importantly how long have they been employed by the Council?
PS: What about the public? Could they not have a greater say? Could they not get themselves on this review board, some members of the public?
MF: I don’t really know. I suppose .. it was most disappointing last night to see not one member of the public in the audience. I should have thought that for something as important as this, I expected we’d have probably twenty or thirty people there.
PS: Twelve million pounds is a lot of money.
MF: It certainly is.
PS: And people were genuinely upset on this show when they found out it has to be said.
MF: Well that’s right. But when there is a meeting on why on earth don’t they come along and give us some support? Because I’m getting a lot of flak about this, and a show of support from the general public would be most encouraging. Because my loyalty is to the people of South Bretton who elected me. And then it goes on to the people in the wider area of Peterborough.
PS: Well good luck with your digging Mike, and long may it continue. Cllr Mike Fletcher, whose looking into all the money spent on consultants in the City in the last financial year. Twelve million pounds. But it pays for itself … or does it?
Use of Consultants – Scrutiny Review – Section 5 on that page. There are ten pdf files.