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Whitehall outlay for consultants on the rise

Published 22/02/2010

Whitehall spending on consultants is back on the rise despite Government-wide efforts to crack down on costs in the face of record deficit levels.

Although the bill for outside help has fallen by almost a third since curbs were introduced following a damning watchdog report in 2006, analysis by the Press Association has found totals are starting to creep up again.

It was found that the Northern Ireland Office spent £1,993,851 in 2007/8, decreasing to £1,517,197 in 2008/9.

But at least seven other Government departments increased the amount they spent on consultants during 2008-09, while the overall figure rose by £22.6 million compared to the previous year.

The true figure is likely to be even higher as two departments have yet to declare their consultancy costs, leading to accusations that ministers have “lost control” of spending.

A value-for-money crackdown was introduced after a 2006 National Audit Office report found Whitehall was spending around £1.8 billion a year on consultants, without properly assessing whether existing staff could do the work.

Most departments have since made significant savings, but analysis of parliamentary questions and departmental annual reports shows signs the trend is starting to reverse.

The Treasury increased spending by 126%, up to £54.6m in 2008-09 from £24.1m the year before — with the rise mostly going on consultants brought in to assist with the bank bailout.

The bill at the Home Office rose by almost 46%, from £96m to £140m, which was put down to “the higher number of major programmes the department is undertaking, specifically in security and counter-terrorism and identity management”.

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