Thursday 29 February 2024
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Nottingham

Further £150,000 external consultant spending approved by city council

Nottingham City Council is planning to recruit more external agents at a cost of nearly £150,000 as it does not have the expertise among its own staff.

The Labour-run authority has approved the spending of tens of thousands of pounds on external consultants over the last year, including staff to submit a bid to government asking for funding to cover part of the Broadmarsh demolition.

The latest spend was made under a delegated decision on July 21, which means it took place outside of a council meeting.

The council wants to use the Perfect Circle framework – which provides a range of consultancy services available to the public sector.

The cost is £149,999.

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The council says it wants to appoint commercial property agents to undertake professional services work on behalf of the local authority.

The council says it has an “extensive investment portfolio which generates significant income for the council”.

The delegated decision states: “In order to maintain this income, professional services work such as lease renewals, lettings and rent reviews need to be undertaken.

“The requirement to have external agents undertake this work is twofold, at present there is not the capacity in-house to complete this work and in some cases the properties are located outside the area of the surveying staff’s expertise.

“Additionally, many of the investment properties to which this work relates are located outside of Nottingham.

“Under such circumstances it is entirely prudent for professional work of this nature to be undertaken by agents who are fully conversant with the local property markets.”

The cost of this decision will be managed within strategic assets and property budgets.

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.

The council has been asked for the current number of external consultants it employs and the full associated costs.

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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