City Hall has spent €26m on consultants since 2009 - €22,000 per job

City Hall has spent €26m on consultants since 2009 - €22,000 per job
Cork City Hall

CORK City Council spent almost €4.5 million on consultants each year from 2009 to 2016.

The figure has been described as ‘incredible money’ by one former Lord Mayor, who said the loss of experienced staff has left the local authority with little alternative.

In all, some €26.3m was spent on external consultants during the period from January 2009 to June 2016.

Consultants, including architects, communications companies, engineers and legal experts, were used on 1,145 occasions between 2009 and 2015, according to records provided to the Evening Echo under the Freedom of Information Act.

This comes to an average of more than €22,000 per job, with projects ranging from huge streetscape changing projects like Kent Station and Blackrock village, to smaller one-off payments such as training, management or marketing events.

Former Lord Mayor, Cllr Terry Shannon, was critical of the spend, noting that it takes money “off the frontline”.

However, he conceded that the huge numbers leaving the organisation in recent years meant that Cork City Council was forced to turn to external expertise on occasion.

“We have a major problem of brain drain and a loss of experience at City Hall,” he said.

“You are looking at hundreds of staff leaving the organisation over the last number of years.”

Most of these have not replaced due to the embargo on hiring and those who have are replaced by people who do not have the same level of experience."

While the hiring embargo has been lifted for 'strategic staff', with the likes of the housing directorate given approval to hire, there is still a general shortage across the board, Mr Shannon said.

"There has been a huge brain drain over the years. We have lost significant knowledge and it is not being replaced. It is frightening:

every single department suffered due to the number of retirees and people leaving.

"The Government has to wake up and realise the situation that we find ourselves in. They are well able to stock their own departments but local authorities are playing catch up."

Mr Shannon called on the local authority to be more prudent in sourcing contractors for jobs.

"The idea of spending more than €4 million each year on consultancy spend does not sit well with me," he said.

"That is money that is literally taken off the front line when it comes to fixing roads or footpaths. If we put €2 million aside for a project, people want €2 million to be spent on it, not €200,000 on a consultant. It just limits how effective we can be."

Included in the documents released under FOI was a statement from City Hall officials to elected members defending the spend on consultants, noting that it is just a small fraction of total Council spend over the period.

It said, "In the corresponding period, Cork City Council spent a sum of €1.7 billion, meaning that the total spend on consultants equates to 1.42% of the total spent. I am entirely satisfied in the context of the City Council's functions and activites that it is reasonable that specialist skills and services would be contracted in by the City Council as and when required."

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