Council spent £4m last year on experts

Blackpool Council spent nearly £4m last year on paying external consultants to carry out specialist work.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 10:17 am
Updated Friday, 18th June 2021, 10:21 am

But councillors were told the expert advice was vital to the success of the resort’s £50m capital programme including major projects such as the tramway extension and new conference centre.

The figure for 2020/21 of £3.9m was an increase from £3.5m the previous year, but as a percentage of capital spend remained around the same at 7.9 per cent.

Steve Thompson director of resources at the council, told a meeting of the tourism, economy and communities scrutiny committee this was “not an unreasonable proportion” in relation to the £50m of capital investment the resort had seen in 2020/21.

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Town hall bosses paid out £4m to consultants in 2020/21

The biggest outlays on consultants were £1.2m for the tramway extension and nearly £1m for the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone.

Around £407,000 was spent on consultants for the Winter Gardens conference centre and £175,000 on the Blackpool Museum project.

Other commissions of more than £25,000 added up to £672,000, while commissions below £25,000 totalled £439,000.

Mr Thompson said it was “extremely unlikely’ the roles taken by consultants could be carried out by council staff.

A council report said: “For some projects, the use of consultants is critical, taking the museum and the tramway extension as examples.

“In both cases, the funding we have received from external agencies requires us 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.”

Coun Gerard Walsh questioned why £6,000 had had to be spent on consultants in order to redesign the entrance to the Blackpool Museum.

The meeting was told this was due to the owner of the Sands Hotel on Central Promenade, where the museum will be located, changing the design of his building.

As result the council had been forced to make changes to its plans for a giant video wall earmarked for the museum entrance.

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