Aberdeen City Council spends £32m on outside consultants

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A Scottish council has spent £32 million of taxpayers money on external consultants over the past five years.

Aberdeen City Council has been accused of filling the pockets of outside advisers as it seeks to transform the city with a range of ambitious regeneration projects.

This year alone the Labour-led administration has spent nearly £9m in more than 1,370 transactions for consultants.

Since January, £8,922,750 has been paid out to specialists – nearly £3m more than the total handed out to external experts in 2015.

The bill to date for 2016 represents a 246 per cent increase on consultant spending compared to 2012 – when the Labour party took lead control of the council in a coalition.

The consultant fees cover any individuals or companies hired from outside the council to carry out a specific set task – such as planning, corporate governance, stand-in managers and in the search for efficiency savings. But council officers refused to break down the costs to show what specific consultants were hired, the projects they worked on, their cost and the length of the contracts.

Aberdeen City Council’s finance convener, Willie Young, admitted that the figures appeared to be high, but added that the cash had been spent over several years and the money had been spent on “all sorts of things”.

SNP opposition group finance spokesman Graham Dickson branded the use of council funds as “shocking”.

He said: “It’s outrageous that this has got this far and this high. This raises the question over whether councillor Young has a blank cheque approach to consultants and an open wallet approach to council finances in Aberdeen.”

The local authority is currently looking to overcome difficulties faced in recent years including the effect that lower oil prices have had on the city’s once booming economy.

Eben Wilson of TaxpayerScotland – Scotland’s independent campaign for lower taxes – said Aberdeen City Council was spending large sums of taxpayers money but was not able to easily report to itself what the money was being spent on.

He said: “It’s extremely disturbing that very large sums of taxpayers’ money has been spent on third parties and yet there is no easily accessible audit trail of the purpose and beneficiaries of the money being spent.”