A top Birmingham City Council official has been rebuked for ignoring an instruction not to appoint outside consultants without first getting political approval.
One of the council's four strategic directors, who is not being named, was called in by cabinet member Alan Rudge, asked for an explanation and told not to do it again.
Leaders of the council's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition were furious that a crackdown on the use of consultants appeared not to have been taken seriously by local authority officers.
Coun Rudge (Con Sutton Vesey) said the use of independent advice under the previous Labour administration was so prevalent that no one knew the exact cost, although the annual bill would have topped £1 million.
He told strategic directors that any expenditure of more than £25,000 on consultants had to be referred to a cabinet member.
The strategic directors previously enjoyed delegated powers to spend up to £500,000.
Coun Rudge said: " I have recently had to rebuke one of the strategic directors for failing to follow my instructions.
"There are, of course, occasions when it is appropriate to use consultants, when you want technical analysis for example.
"But very often consultants have been used as a cop out for decision making, or in order for the council not to be blamed for taking a decision. You tell the consultants what you want and get them to come up with a report recommending precisely that."
Council leader Mike Whitby said: "We have a large number of well paid officers and I would like to believe with that range of managerial experience that we don't need consultants. We should very rarely have to pay for outside advice and if we do it has to add real value."
Examples of the council's use of consultants includes the recruitment of a new chief executive in 2001, when PricewaterhouseCoopers was paid £55,000 to lead a head-hunting exercise.