Consultants are being paid tens of thousands of pounds to advise Kent County Council about its latest re-organisation, it has emerged.
Consultants brought in to provide specialist advice about the shake-up have already cost the taxpayer about £156,000, but the final bill will be more than double that at £322,358.
The re-organisation - dubbed “Facing The Challenge” - involves radical changes to the way the council is run and provides services.
Kent County Council leader Cllr Paul Carter
It is expected to involve more privatisation and outsourcing of services to help save £267m over the next three years.
Cllr Paul Carter, Conservative leader of Kent County Council, defended the expense.
He said it was important to get an outside perspective on the changes and consultants helped by allowing staff to get on with their job.
“We have to have the capacity for change. We have already a very lean organisation which is fit for purpose but we do need external help and high calibre people to deliver significant change while our staff get on with the job.
"There can be a great danger that staff get too close to the business and you need a different perspective, particularly around market engagement and the ability of others who might be able to deliver services for us.”
Consultants were useful on a short-term basis to help the council review the first phase of services that might be outsourced under the “Facing The Challenge” programme, he added.
County Hall, Maidstone - the home of KCC
Figures provided to the KM Group under the Freedom of Information Act show seven different companies are working for the council, mostly on six-month contracts that will end in March.
Two of the seven are experts in outsourcing public services - something that KCC says it will need to do more of to save money.
They include Veredus, whose website describes itself as “specialists in outsourcing and helping public sector organisations with interim management.”
KCC is paying the company £47,000.
KCC has also brought in the consultancy Penna on a six-month contract. It is described as “a global HR [human resources] Services Group.”
It will be paid £115,320 for what KCC describes as “help with market engagement” and “corporate portfolio review.”
The company’s website lists clients that include Greggs, the bakery chain and L’Oreal, the cosmetics manufacturer.
A company called Connect2Staff is being paid nearly £97,000 for “service review” and market engagement.
"We have to have the capacity for change. We have already a very lean organisation which is fit for purpose but we do need external help and high calibre people to deliver significant change" - Paul Carter
Its website describes the company as “a large recruitment business, operating across a number of locations and boasts a customer base from within the public and private sector.”
Two other individual consultants have been paid about £10,000 between them.
The campaign group The Taxpayers’ Alliance queried the need to bring in consultants.
Dia Chakravarty, political director of the group, said: “Taxpayers will find it appalling that Kent County Council is splashing out so much of their money on expensive external consultants.
"Given the council’s appalling track record of managing residents’ money they will want to see evidence these payments are good value for their hard-earned cash.
"Any help brought in to find savings should be based on the amount of cash saved, not paid upfront regardless.”