Blackpool Council spent £2.6m on consultants - mainly for museum and tramway

Artist's impression of Showtown
Artist's impression of Showtown
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Blackpool Council spent almost £2.6m on consultancy fees during 2018/19 - an increase of around £1m compared to the previous year.

Figures just published show the bulk of the increase was due to additional spending on the Blackpool museum project.

A total of £734,238 went on fees mainly to architects as work on the scheme, now called Showtown, ramps up towards its opening in the Sands Hotel on the Promenade in June 2021.

This is up from £114,239 during the 2017/18 financial year.

A report to the council's tourism, resources and communities committee says due to its "limited resources and capacity", the council would be unable to deliver its capital programme "without the advice and support from external consultants".

Coun Paul Galley asked if the council should recruit its own staff to carry out the work instead of relying on consultants.

He said: "In the past, we had our own capital projects team. Are we getting to the point where we are need more qualified architects and seeing the type of skills we need to invest in?

"Is it time to build our own capital projects team again?"

Steve Thompson, director of resources, said there were instances where the council had to use external consultants.

He said: "Some of the work comes in fits and starts and so it is not viable to have your own team.

"Some funding, such as from the Heritage Lottery Fund, requires external teams and in-house isn't eligible."

Mr Thompson adds in his report to the committee that use of consultants has been "critical" for both the £13m museum project and the £21m tramway extension.

He says: "In both cases, the funding received from external agencies requires the council to appoint certain experts to ensure the security of the funding.

"These may be specialists that are recommended by the funders as having specific skills such as a heritage architect or a tramway engineer.

"Because these services are project specific, demand is not constant; employing these experts on a full-time basis would not be cost effective."

Figures from the report show £2,593,428 was spent on external consultants during 2018/2019 compared to £1,612,199 the previous year.