By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
Nottingham City Council is employing external consultants to help sort out its financial problems because of a lack of internal expertise.
And on just one day – February 4 – the council approved a total spend of up to £766,000 on elements of its transformation programme – which is being run to make widespread changes and get it back on a firmer financial footing.
Cllr David Mellen, leader of the council, said some of the money for the programme is coming out of a £15m government grant and does not affect day-to-day services.
But the Labour-led authority has not disclosed exactly how much of the money spent on the programme is coming out of its own pocket.
However, it says the overall investment will save the council millions in the long-term and is needed to make sure change happens quickly.
Cllr Mellen told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We successfully applied to Government for £15m of capitalisation funding which has helped us to create a transformation reserve.
“Some of this reserve money is being used to appoint external experts and set up new business support and customer service arrangements to drive the transformation activity that’s been identified is needed at the council. This does not impact on our budgets for running day to day services.
“We need external expertise at this early stage of the council’s transformation with changes required at pace, but over time we will build in-house skills so that our own staff can pick up the reins and deliver real change.
“We expect the renewal of business support activity to save the council in the order of £3.5m. Similarly, modernisation of our customer service activity is ultimately expected to deliver savings of around £8m.”
Delegated decisions – made behind closed doors and not within council meetings, then published online – show the amount of cash put into the programme on just one day in February.
The council agreed to pump £96,000 into employing two consultants for six months of work helping it to sell off assets. This works out at a day rate of £400.
The council rejected the option to appoint internally as “additional capacity is not available” within the council.
It also approved ‘up to’ £270,000 on ‘external resources’ to deliver business support transformation activity.
This programme will simplify, standardise and streamline the way in which the council delivers businesses support.
The council has also agreed to spend up to £400,000 in its Customer First programme, which will work across the whole council with the aim of “rapidly improving key customer services.”
“Simpler, faster processes will improve customer satisfaction and reduce costs for the council,” the council said.
It comes while the Labour-run authority is being monitored by the Government after the failure of Robin Hood Energy.
The council-run company went bust in January 2020 and left taxpayers with an anticipated bill of £38m.
It now needs to prove to the government that it can remain ‘financially resilient’ otherwise government commissioners could be called in to run the authority in the future.
The council has until March to put its house in order, with targets including identifying how it will make £38m of savings over the next four years.
Last November, it also spent £110,000 to extend the contract up to March of a consultant to provide financial expertise around council-owned companies.
Again, “specialist commercial skills” were not available within the council.