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!
Published in the EADT 25/May/2010