Friday 19 July 2024
23 C

£50 per hour tree consultant for city council

Nottingham City Council will spend up to £45,000 to keep a tree consultant on its books as there are no employees within the local authority that can do the job.

The Labour-run authority has employed a number of external consultants over the last year citing there is no expertise in-house as one of the reasons.

Consultants tend to be more expensive, with the authority spending tens of thousands of pounds on them this year.

This has included employing staff to submit a bid to Government asking for funding to cover part of the Broadmarsh demolition.

The exact number of external consultants the council has employed to date has not been revealed yet.

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Under a delegated decision on July 22, which means it took place outside a council meeting, the authority agreed to spend up to £45,000 to continue the use of a tree officer consultant.

The authority states: “The consultant is fulfilling the vacant tree officer post, which provides a statutory duty.

“The post has statutory responsibilities and is highly specialised, with no in-house knowledge available.

“Therefore, not having the post occupied cannot be absorbed, even on a short term/temporary basis, whilst tendering and/or permanent recruitment takes place.

“Recruitment to the post has been unsuccessful, so there is a requirement to rely on a qualified consultant to maintain and deliver the council’s statutory responsibility to determine applications for works to protected trees, and in turn safeguard the city’s trees, which provide a public benefit to health and amenity.

“With no consultant tree officer in post, there is a high likelihood that unauthorised tree works and felling of protected trees would take place.

“This would result in poor planning and place-making outcomes, with risk to inward investment and to the health and wellbeing of citizens, as well as hindering and conflicting with the council’s carbon neutral agenda.”

The consultant cost is based on working 16 hours a week at a reduced hourly rate of £50 per hour with the council stating this is best value for money.

The Labour-run authority is currently being monitored by a Government-appointed improvement board and needs to make significant savings after the collapse of council company Robin Hood Energy.

The council has already made proposals which include closing five of its children’s centres, three libraries and the Victoria Embankment Paddling Pool as the infrastructure needs £600,000 of repairs.

However, earlier this year, Cllr David Mellen (Lab), leader of the council, said: “The government’s non-statutory review of the council places a requirement on the council to improve, with a focus on financial and governance arrangements.

“We are making good progress on this, but we need external expertise at this early stage of our transformation, with changes required at pace.

“We made a request to Government for capitalisation, allowing us to borrow up to £20m against capital assets, which has helped us to create a transformation reserve.

“Some of this reserve money is being used to appoint external experts and set up new business support and customer service arrangements to drive the transformation activity that’s been identified is needed at the council. This does not impact on our budgets for running day-to-day services.

“We have planned and are delivering in-house skills and development programmes aimed at developing new skills in our own staff so that they can pick up the reins and continue to deliver the changes that are needed.

“There are higher costs involved, including agency fees, when appointing temporary staff, and we are working towards making permanent appointments as soon as possible.

“We understand that these costs are high, when the council is having to make huge savings from its budget. However, they are a necessary short-term measure to help us move forward, while the budget savings will help to place us on a sound financial footing over the long-term.”

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