Council leader defends use of consultants

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PORTSMOUTH City Council has come under renewed fire from its own Tory group for its use of consultants, agency staff and temps.

But it has defended its actions, arguing there are situations in which there is no alternative.

Cllr Steve Wemyss, leader of the Tory group, said: 'We have spent a lot of money and that's not always right. Sometimes it's appropriate, but I'm very concerned we must get a handle on the amount we're spending and make sure it's not just officers having their work done by other means.'

As The News reported last week, in the year 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available, Portsmouth City Council spent 5,032,040 to employ consultants, agency staff and temps.

The figure was an increase on the 2006-07 total of 4,030,680.

But Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: 'I'm not sure it's helpful to have the titles conflated, when there are different reasons for employing each of them.

'If you have a children's home and staff are sick, you have to employ temps, otherwise you'd have to close the home, and then what would you do with the children? It's wrong always to think the same things must be done. This is a 500m business and each department runs differently.'

And Cllr Mike Hancock said: 'No council wants to spend more money than it has to. These people who come in as consultatnts are experts with knowledge they can help us with. It's not fair to suggest it's officers avoiding work.'