Category Archives: Suffolk County Council

EADT coverage of Suffolk CC appointing consultants without tendering

Article in the Evening Star

Dear Editor

Last week you covered the decision by Suffolk County Council’s Conservatives to spend a further £122,000 of public money on unspecified ‘services’ provided by three consultancy companies: Fields of Learning, Scintillate Business Ltd and DNA (Friday 28 May: New Row over cost of consultants). This was voted through by the Conservatives against strenuous protests from the Lib Dem opposition who maintained – rightly – that at a time of belt-tightening, this is a grossly inappropriate use of public money.

What was the response of the Deputy Leader of the council? “This is a tiny proportion of the county council’s budget!”

It is a tragedy that Suffolk is currently run by people who consider £122,000 a small sum of money. For the average Suffolk resident it is an extraordinarily large sum of money! My local family centre – the Deben Family Centre in Woodbridge – had to close because the County Council couldn’t afford £50,000 to support it! £122,000 is the annual salary for six firefighters. It would buy a family house in Ipswich.

As previously reported in your paper, one of these consultants (Bedfordshire-based Fields of Learning) has already been used by Suffolk County Council. Last year the council spent nearly half a million pounds of Suffolk taxpayers’ money on training which included “neuro-linguistic programming”. If you search the internet for neuro-linguistic programming you will discover it is one of the 10 most discredited forms of intervention in published research – on a par with ‘equine treatment for eating disorders’ and ‘dolphin assisted therapy’. What on earth are we doing spending council tax money on this at a time when we’re having to tighten our belts?

Our new government has just instituted a £500 rule which means that all public expenditure over this sum has to be publically declared – and justified. The people of Suffolk should rise up and demand that the same rule applies to their council!

Yours sincerely

Caroline Page

Published in the EADT 25/May/2010


High pay in the public sector!

The Cabinet Office has just published a list of the highest-paid Whitehall Civil Servants – those who earn more than £150,00 per annum.

There are  a hundred and seventy Whitehall Civil Service chiefs who earn more than the prime minister.

There are only two or three who earn more than our Suffolk County Council Chief Executive Andrea Hill.

How can this be?

The average pay for workers in Suffolk is LESS than the national average – and much less than the pay of those in London.

What a waste of public money?

Amongst our new coalition government’s £6.2bn of announced savings last week was an immediate freeze on new work with management consultants.

Yet in Suffolk, hard-pressed tax payers, people who see the pot-holes daily increasing outside their doors,  are being asked by the Conservative administration to shell out  as much as £122,000 just to help our highly paid senior managers to save money. At least we assume thats what its for. As they were asking that this spend didn’t have to go out to public tender we really dont have much idea WHAT its going to be  spent on!

Now, £122000 may not seem a lot to some people, but from my view – where our local Family Centre closed for want of £50,000  – it’s a fortune.

We are told that the company Scintillate will be paid around £50,000 – £55,000 and Bedfordshire-based Fields of Learning will get up to £42,000 for two months’ work; and DNA will be paid around £30,000 for one month’s work.  The sums are pretty specific but nobodywill tell us what these companies will do or why we should pay them.

Go figure.

Don’t you think it is deeply worrying that the Conservative-run Suffolk County Council Cabinet has actually voted to put aside standing orders and allow this money to be spent without the taxpayers, or indeed other county councillors having  any idea what these companies do or how it will benefit anyone other than the companies themselves? How can they justify it?  I guess the answer is, that with their huge majority they just don’t need to!

Who are these companies? Who runs them? What are their qualifications? Google their personnel and their practice and you come up with very little. No sense of educational background, or any concrete measurable achievement. No peer reviews – apart from one practitioner recommending another practitioner’s book. On Amazon!  The websites of all these consultants are filled with nebulous, positive-sounding content-free platitudes. Forgive me for saying this, but its hard to understand why any sensible person with a genuine feeling of responsibility for a public budget would fall for this  for one moment.

Fields of learning for example offers range of very mixed services  –  and I do n’t mean this admiringly: personal trainers, acupuncture, neuro-linguistic programming. I don’t know how useful acupuncture and personal training might be in saving us money but if you check up on NLP you you will discover it is one of the 10 most discredited forms of intervention in published research: on a par, apparently, with  “equine treatment for eating disorders” and “dolphin assisted therapy.

Now my view is, it is ok for the practitioners of NLP to take money from the credulous if the credulous are happy to part with it. But is it ok  for them to take other peoples money? Most importantly of all is it ok for them to take OUR money?

This is a time of belt-tightening, painful desperate belt-tightening, belt-tightening so desperate, so painful that our waistbands will be cutting us in half. So why at this time are we loosening our waistbands and dropping the public trousers for these vacuous, worthless pointless puffs of hot air

(Note: This first appeared as a speech I made at full Council, 27 May 2010)