Following a House of Commons report which slammed the use by Government of outside consultants, Michael Fabricant asks: "Isn’t Labour controlled Staffordshire County Council wasting valuable resources employing an outside agency to consult with users of care homes that are due for the chop? Instead of a sham consultation, following on so recently from the County’s decision to employ press officers in social services costing over £100,000 a year, wouldn’t the money be better spent helping to keep residential and day centres open?"
Government departments have been told by the Public Accounts Committee to do more of their own work – rather than relying on consultancies. External consultants, says the Committee’s report, cost Whitehall £1.8bn of the public sector’s £2.8bn bill for 2005-6 – a 33% rise in three years.
"Consistently relying on consultants for basic skills is expensive and repeated use suggests poor value for money," the report says. " Departments are often on the phone to consultants without first finding out whether their own, in-house staff, have the skills to do the job. Often civil servants had the skills to do the job themselves and were cheaper, yet consultants were still being used."
Departments and the Office of Government Commerce ‘do not routinely know how much money is spent on consultants’ – making it hard to measure whether they were worth the money. Reasons for using consultants should be ‘clearly articulated’ to prevent them being used for the wrong reasons – such as a means of deflecting blame.
Michael Fabricant says: "There are unfortunate parallels here in Staffordshire. Does it really need an outside agency when employees of social services clearly know the needs of those whom they are caring for? And I have to ask whether the employment of an outside agency is merely an expensive way of deflecting blame as the House of Commons report suggests. Council Tax payers deserve an answer."