Mid Wales

Criticism over Powys Council's consultancy fees rise

Road building (generic)
Image caption Consultants are used to manage road building projects for Powys Council

Council chiefs in Powys have been criticised after it emerged consultancy fees had risen by more than £6m in 11 years.

The council's Conservative group, which revealed the figures, said the bill for consultants stood at £86,348 in 1999 and rose to £6.1m last year.

A spokesman described the rise as "dramatic" at a time of cuts.

Powys council said overall it spent £350m a year and consultants saved money on larger projects.

A spokesman explained that consultants were used to manage schemes to build new schools and roads where the council did not have the "internal capacity".

He said without their help some of these projects would not go ahead.

Powys council is led by a coalition between Powys Independent Alliance and the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

The authority uses what it calls framework agreements with specific contractors. It said this had streamlined the tendering process and improved efficiency.

Conservatives joint group leader Aled Roberts said: "The increase in the consultancy bill over the last few years has been dramatic at a time when the council is looking to make large cuts.

"Powys County Council's £6m bill for consultancy is the same as the council spends on its sixth forms."

Consultants Capita are working on the council's £36m Maesyderwen schools project in Ystradgynlais, where four new primary schools are being built and a secondary school is receiving a facelift.

Cabinet member for finance, Councillor Tony Thomas said framework agreements were more economical, and enabled the council's limited internal resources "to be targeted to our specialisms".

He added: "We use a number of framework agreements with specific contractors to deliver various design and construction projects as and when needed.

"When we make use of these contractors the costs are recorded as consultancy costs and a large proportion of the total consultancy spend relates to our framework contractors.

"We use these agreements as it reduces the number of external contractors used and facilitates closer working relationships with them."

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