City ready to pay consultants £1.2m for cost-cutting tips

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A TEAM of private consultants is to be paid up to £1.2 million to draw up plans to reshape the way more than a dozen council services are provided.

The city council is looking to outsource up to 17 different services, including bin collections, street cleaning and school meals, to help it save money.

It today confirmed that it had appointed law firm Eversheds to advise it on its "alternative business models" project.

The firm will be paid up to 1.17m depending on how much of the programme is carried through to a conclusion.

Trade union leaders today accused the council of wasting more of taxpayers' money on private consultants, on which it spent 5.5m last year.

John Stevenson, president of the Edinburgh branch of Unison, said: "This is money best spent investing in services. They are betting over 1m on the hope they will save money through outsourcing but it is wishful thinking.

"This is a council that has already spent 6m on consultants so, in the space of 18 months, 7m has gone on nothing. The priority should be investing in front line services."

He also said not enough was being done to investigate whether an alternative in-house bid could be drawn up.

"If they spend 1m on how to privatise, we think they could spend a fraction on speaking to people in-house and seeing how they can make the service better."

Council chiefs were given approval last December to start the "competitive dialogue" process – where the potential outsourcing of services is advertised and firms are invited to register their interest.

Chief executive Tom Aitchison got approval to rubber-stamp the contract for external advisers to help with the project.

A total of seven firms bid for the adviser role, with their fees ranging from 981,758 to 2.2m.

Councillor Phil Wheeler, the city's finance leader, said: "The costs we incur will depend on how far we go down this process and what we think can be saved, while maintaining services.

"We are also only bringing in outside expertise where it is essential to complement the skills we have in-house."

The programme will review 114m a year of council spending, with potential for contracts to be set for seven to 12 years. It is hoped that the scope of the programme will be up to 1.4 billion over the period and savings of between 10 and 30 per cent are targeted.