If Birmingham City Council had admitted publicly that it intended to take on an additional three housing directors on salaries of about £100,000 a year, there would rightly have been something of an outcry.

So in order to shield its recruitment policy from public gaze, the council set about hiring consultants, apparently on temporary contracts, allegedly to oversee complex projects that none of the council’s other well-paid officials supposedly had the ability to deliver.

One of these consultants lasted six years in the job. Another clocked up 606 days and the third 185 days. To rub salt into the wounds, the third man, Nigel Christie, is a former senior council employee who moved seamlessly to consultant upon taking early retirement, thereby continuing to receive a wage from the taxpayer.

It seems highly unlikely that Birmingham really needed to spend £1 million on consultants during a period of great pressure on public sector budgets. There must, surely, have been council officials who could have stepped in to deliver house-building projects.

As for Tory cabinet housing member John Lines, what can you say about a man who admits he doesn’t know how much the consultants were paid, other than that he clearly is not in charge of his own department.