NORTH Ayrshire Council spent over £400,000 on consultants during the first nine months of 2017, it has been revealed.

Figures published on their website recently show a drop in the use of consultants overall but still a massive outlay for expert opinion which is not held within the council itself.

The council defended the spending by saying that they have dropped spending since the end of 2016/17 – but the Conservative Group on the council blasted the spending and lack of detail available.

Overall, £401,006.30 was spent on consultant use between January and September of last year, with the first three months seeing a spend of over £250,000.

A spokesperson for the Conservative Group on the council said: “Whilst the Conservatives believe there are occasions when the council has to apply outside Consultants it is much better value for money that expertise can be provided in-house.

For example inhouse hourly cost of a NAC solicitor is £45 per hour whereas that of an outside solicitor will be three times that amount.

“It is good that expenditure on consultants in Q1 and Q2 of 2017 are listed but the sparse detail provided does not allow a judgement as to whether this is good value for money.

There have been examples in the past of Consultant’s reports being allowed to gather dust on a shelf. One wonders if the expenditure of £150,000 over these two Quarters is entirely justified.

“Most of the expenditure is, “general business management“, which is not an adequate description of how of the money is spent. We think that has to be greater detail provided.

“Finally the expenditure for Q3 2017 which is for the months of October, November and December 2017 have still to be published.

During this period the council engaged a number of Consultants including engineers, surveyors, lawyers etc in connection with the proposed purchase of the Rivergate Shopping Centre, in Irvine.

The costs, revealed by Chief Executive Elma Murray, amount to £238,000 which the Conservatives believe is money which could have been used to safeguard some of the proposed cuts to services.”

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “As can be seen from the figures, there has been a downward trend in consultancy spend since the third quarter of 2016/17.

“The council tries to minimise the use of external consultants and only uses their services when specific expertise, which is not available inhouse to the council, is required to ensure we provide the best possible services to our residents.”