‘Obscene’ £1.6m payment to Hull job-cut consultants

Consultants have been paid £1.6m for overseeing a council job cutting programme.

Hull Council leader Steve Brady

Consulting giant Deloitte which was drafted in to help Hull Council modernise its business support section, has been paid £1.42m, while a separate consultant Jan Willis got £220,000 for 18 months work, a freedom of information request has revealed.

Unions have raised concerns over the process and claim it is an experiment that won’t necessarily work.

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They also question the amount of money paid drafting in consultants when the authority employs a number of highly-paid senior managers.

Coun Phil Webster, who holds the finance portfolio, gave a robust defence of the programme, but admitted: “My own personal view is that it is an obscene amount of money. If you need a car and you haven’t got one, you have to ring a taxi and you end up paying the charge regardless. It is what you would call a captive audience.”

Convenor for Unite, Peter Schofield said the council had been given a business plan which outlined £5m of savings, but it had “snowballed, time scales had been extended and it had ended up costing more and more.”

A breakdown shows that Deloitte were paid £38,500 for a strategic business case and a presentation to the council’s Cabinet; £331,500 for a “future organisational design” document, change and communications plans, and a final business case, including “implementation roadmap” options.

Another £440,000 went on stage three proposals and £260,000 on stage three B.

A communications and marketing review cost £35,000; a service support review £62,000 and business planning and service review £42,000.

The Yorkshire Post revealed earlier this year that axing jobs in finance, HR, IT and service support, as part of plans to create what officials describe as a business model “with e-enabled manager self-service at its heart” would cost up to £3.2m in redundancy payments.

Asked why there was no one in the council capable of carrying out the role Ms Willis is performing, the authority said: “The role comprises high level technical and business management skills that are not available within the council. The opportunity was advertised internally without success prior to a competitive procurement process.”

Ms Willis, of Wow Consulting, is the programme director for organisational support review, while Deloitte have been paid separately for “professional services” in connection with the review.

Ms Willis was paid £81,375 between April and November 2012 for project management services for OSR and £140,000 as director between last November and September 30. She was also paid £9,295 for travel and accommodation for providing project management services.

Mr Schofield said: “At the end of the day we have heads of service who are paid £88,000 a year and a director of finance on £110,000 yet we are bringing in people who are paid more than their job. It is completely and utterly wrong and a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Over 100 staff have already accepted voluntary redundancy, with another 40 agreeing to stay on for six months “to backfill to avoid any failure of services.” A handful of staff have declined and are at risk of compulsory redundancy.

Coun Webster insisted they were already ahead on savings by £178,000.

He said: “Under the Liberal Democrats £7m taxpayers’ money was spent and they achieved £3m of savings - that’s failure.

“We are spending £1.6m and we are going to achieve £5.6m savings year on year. I have gone on record saying we will achieve that.”

Coun Webster said an upgrade of computer systems would allow the “self-service” system to work in the third week of September. He said: “Before people would have to ring up finance to get a figure - they now can get it themselves. It is about empowering people at all levels to do their job.” Deloitte declined to comment.