After the furore surrounding the publicity attracted by the budget for the Further Education sector on the eve of both the election campaign and then more recently on the cusp of Adult Learner’s Week, the Government faces renewed criticism following the announcement of an alleged £1.4 billion expenditure on consultants in 2003 / 04, which was given at the GMB Congress in Newcastle on Sunday.
These figures, the result of a report undertaken by GMB researchers, indicate that this figure was up from £986 million in 2002 / 03 ““ an increase of approximately 29 % – and was distributed amongst a number of projects and departments. The report goes on to say that, assuming the average rate of pay for a consultant, the Government are employing an “army” of 27, 093 private consultants per year.
Getting Down to the Details
The report looked at the accounts of a number of departments, and encompassed 38 separate projects. The figures regarding the average pay for a consultant are drawn from a GMB study of official earnings statistics, finding that management consultants typically earn somewhere in the region of £51,000 per annum. The report mentions that not all information was available, but goes on to name the seven biggest spenders on consultants.
The Department of Work and Pensions topped the league, spending £307 million during the course of the year under scrutiny. The GMB report estimates that this, taking into account the average income mentioned above, would mean roughly 5, 930 consultants engaged by this department. And in sixth place, just behind the Core Home Office with its £74 million, was the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), who the report says spent £70 million on consultants during 2003 / 04, accounting for approximately 135 consultants.
“Value for the Taxpayers” Pound”
The Acting General Secretary of the GMB, Mr. Paul Kenny, said that this was unacceptable at a time when the Government are saying they will not be able to fund the £200 million required to bridge the gap in pension schemes. He describes the consultancy expenditure at this point as “really pouring oil on the fire.”
Mr. Kenny stated: “These figures show that the tax payer is paying far too much for management and consultancy advice. There is scope to save money on these consultants and to spend the money instead on the front line public services.” The GMB have further announced their intention to make use of the Freedom of Information Act to reveal the full figures on expenditure for all public sector bodies.
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