Birmingham’s housing department has spent more than £1 million hiring just three consultants to managed “short term projects” which ended up lasting six years.
The three high-flying consultants were brought in as project managers on more than a dozen council house projects.
The figures emerged as Audit Commission inspectors are set to downgrade its rating for the city’s housing department, declaring its service has gone from “good” a year ago to “fair”.
The Birmingham Post has learnt that the consultants earned director level rates of up to £500 per day and have clocked up 2,217 days between them.
One of them, Asha Patel, has been employed since April 2005 and has racked up 1,426 days’ pay.
The second, former council employee Nigel Christie, was brought in to consult in July 2009 and has completed 185 days of project work, while the third, Bob Pringle, arrived in June 2008 and worked for 606 days.
The council said all three will leave the local authority this week because of budget cuts. The city’s housing and constituencies directorate already pays its management team of nine directors and assistant directors £800,000 per year.
A source at the council, who did not want to be named said: “One of these consultants was a former employee and all three of them have been retained for a significant period of time, moving from project to project.
“The council seems intent on using consultants for indefinite periods.
“They are brought in to carry out work that, in my view, permanent employees should and could carry out. In the private sector they would be brought in for very short periods and other staff would learn from them.
“At any time I would consider the spending to be reckless, but in the current climate of cuts I think it’s disgraceful.”
Councillor John Lines, cabinet member in charge of housing, said: “We have not had them in for the hell of it, we have had them in for necessity. All of our consultants have completed excellent work, but will be leaving in five days time.
“These are lean times and their departure is part of the wider plan of cutting consultant and agency staff costs, in order to keep our permanent staff.
“They have worked hard and brought about real improvement to residents and council tenants in this city, but we have to let them go and we will be asking our permanent staff to do the job.
“We do not always have the staff in-house but they have done the jobs we asked them to do and now it will be up to the up-and-coming officers to take over.”
When asked about the £500 daily rate Coun Lines added: “I didn’t know they cost that much money because I do not employ them.”
“They have helped to bring about the £700 million investment in improving council homes and the programme of new council houses. They have earned their bread.”
Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr, said: “This is abuse of our money.
“It’s a complete nonsense that we are paying huge sums of money when we are cutting the allowances and the jobs of the hard working people at the coalface. It is disgusting and hypocritical at a time when the coalition Government is asking everybody to tighten their belts.
“I don’t know how they have the gall to do it. But the really important issue here is the question of why they are needed in the first place.
“Consultants are supposed to be brought in for short term projects and should be training and supporting staff. To have them employed for this length of time is absurd and an abuse of money.”
A spokesman for Unison in the West Midlands said: “We have raised the issue of hugely expensive consultants in the past.
“The city council should be investing in their own, professional, in-house staff instead of relying on short term, highly paid consultants.”
A spokesman for Birmingham City Council said: “These consultants have played an important role in helping the directorate to modernise and improve services, while also saving the council substantial amounts of money; for example £30 million in a repairs re-tendering exercise.
‘‘All consultancy appointments are subject to a rigorous business case, including benefits gained and are time limited to specific projects.”