Published: 00:01, 11 July 2018
| Updated: 21:34, 11 July 2018
Kent County Council has spent nearly half a million pounds setting up a company to sell education support services to schools, it has emerged.
The £491,363 costs include £15,000 on a logo and branding and £355,400 on consultancy.
The company had been scheduled to begin trading in April but the launch was recently put back to September.
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The disclosure of the costs has been criticised by Unison, which obtained the figures through a Freedom of Information request.
County education chiefs said the set-up costs were ‘proportionate’ when considered against the size and scale of the company.
But Unison said the money could have been better spent on recruiting frontline staff.
It complained that the council was making decisions about the company behind closed doors.
Unison Kent branch chairman Shane Mochrie-Cox said: “This is just one of a growing trend of papers and decisions being taken in private and behind closed doors without any public scrutiny.
"Our FOI stemmed from this frustration that these decisions come at a cost to our members and most importantly the taxpayer and public.”
About 480 staff are expected to transfer from KCC to the new company.
In its response to a series of questions about the company, KCC said the £15,000 was the cost of a “brand identity toolkit” which covered more than just a logo.
It added that while the council had sought advice advice from its own commercial enterprises to save money, consultants were necessary as setting up the company was “a major piece of work” and “significant commercial expertise from the competitive education market has been required and this has inevitably resulted in the proportionate use of external consultants.”
Mr Mochrie-Cox said the money could have employed dozens of extra frontline staff.
“We must ask - given all this outgoing in setting this company up - when will it produce a dividend for the taxpayer?
"The £491,363 is the rough equivalent of 16 social workers wages, 21 early help workers or social work assistants, 30 cooks or cleaners or 19 highways workers" - Shane Mochrie-Cox
The £491,363 is the rough equivalent of 16 social workers wages, 21 early help workers or social work assistants, 30 cooks or cleaners or 19 highways workers.”
Matt Dunkley, Kent County Council’s director of education, said: “The set up costs for The Education People, when considered against the size of the business, the number of employees and the anticipated annual turnover, are proportionate and appropriate.”
“The company was created to allow us to break into new markets and, over time, generate more income, thereby reducing the overall cost to the Kent taxpayer.”
The company was a commercial venture and KCC had bought the external advice, expertise, skills and experience necessary to make it a success, he added.
KCC’s in-house companies have been under scrutiny recently.
Is legal services company Invicta Law was criticised after it posted losses of half a million pounds after forecasting a dividend in 2017-18 of £1m.
More by this authorPaul Francis