Scottish Futures Trust 'spent £2,000 a day on consultants'

A BODY launched by the Scottish Government to deliver better value for the public purse has been branded a "gravy train" after its most recent spending figures were disclosed yesterday.

• Bill Butler: MSP attacked the SFT as 'a discredited quango'

The Scottish Futures Trust spent nearly 3.3 million during 2009-10, according to its annual report, with more than 1m going on agency, seconded and interim staff, as well as fees to outside recruitment agencies.

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A total of 859,684 was also spent by the SFT on salaries and associated costs during the same period, alongside 84,697 on leases for buildings and land.

The SFT shelled out 903,145 on agency and interim staff, with the bill also covering the cost of seconded workers - including some from the Scottish Government and law firms.

There was also 150,438 paid out in recruitment fees during 2009-10 - even though the SFT was launched in September 2008 by the SNP government to deliver major public-sector building projects itself, instead of contracting out work.

Barry White, the SFT chief executive, received a salary package of 174,166 during 2009-10.

Labour MSP Bill Butler claimed the amounts spent were excessive and criticised the SFT for publishing the report in the run-up to Christmas, when the Scottish Parliament has just two days left to sit before the recess. He said: "These figures will do little to increase public confidence in this increasingly discredited quango.

"Instead, they have seen the SFT pay out over 2,000 a day on consultants over the past 12 months, and today's figures prove that the gravy train keeps on rolling.

"It is also somewhat concerning that a controversial body such as the SFT should choose to slip out its accounts less than four days before Christmas."

The 3,299,033 spent by the SFT during 2009-10, compared with 311,976 during the first six months the body existed up to the end of March 2009. A total of 156,492 was spent on agency, seconded and interim staff in the first six months, with 54,757 going on recruitment fees.

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However, SFT claimed it spent taxpayers' cash on temporary staff and used recruitment consultants during its early phase.

The SFT also said it had only spent 3.3m of the 4.3m budget handed to it by the Scottish Government for 2009-10.

A spokesman said: "During 2009-2010, SFT delivered 111m net benefits and savings to infrastructure investment in Scotland. While being set up during 2009-10, SFT used temporary, seconded or agency staff when necessary. During 2009-10, SFT was granted a budget of 4.3m by the Scottish Parliament, but spent just 3.3m.

"At 1 April, 2009, SFT had no full-time members of permanent staff. Barry White, the SFT chief executive, started as the full-time first member of staff on 1 May 2009.Today SFT has 25 full-time staff, two fixed-term staff and three seconded staff and is using no agency staff."

The Scottish Government said: "These figures relate to the 2009-10 financial year, at the start of which SFT had no permanent staff. SFT is now fully up and running and is a small, lean organisation."