This story has now been changed here to reflect the true amount spent on consultant's fees by the council.

THE '£20 million' cost of employing consultants at Cornwall Council does not add up, according to a Conservative councillor who has asked for a breakdown of the figures.

At a full meeting of Cornwall Council yesterday, Conservative councillor for Truro Trehaverne David Harris highlighted the 'staggering' cost of consultants hired by the Lib Dem-Independent-run council in the 2019-20 financial year at £20million, in particular asking how many of these costs were being hidden away in project costs.

At the same time as promising a detailed analysis of the costs, in response, Councillor Adam Paynter, deputy leader of the council and leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Cornwall Council said: “When we are doing some of these large projects it clearly makes sense to use some of the short-term work from experts in getting these projects up and running rather than employing somebody full time just to do a very short piece of work”

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Harris said: “Yes, there is a time and a place for consultants and I look forward to seeing the promised analysis.

“However £ 20 million even allowing for consultants charging at £300 per hour is equivalent to 67,000 hours so if you reckon that the average working year is 1,800 hours this is equivalent to 37 full time staff...and if you did take on 37 full time staff and pay each of them £100,000 per annum this would still only come to £3.7 million.

“Something doesn’t add up here and I am really looking forward to a breakdown of this amazing figure which Councillor Paynter claimed to be well aware of and not concerned about”

In a statement Cornwall Council said it only uses temporary staff, interims or consultants when in-house skills or resources are not available, or when it is required to use them for externally funded projects.

"We closely monitor this try to reduce the number we use as much as possible," it said.

"The figures quoted are completely incorrect. The actual spend for 2020/21 is projected to be £10.5m, not £20m. This represents a 14% reduction in money spent on contractors compared to 2012.

"This figure equates to less than 5% of the Council’s budgeted spend on employees and is only used when there is a gap in resources.

"Sometimes we also need agency staff to cover sickness, seasonal work, short term projects and in key areas where it has proved difficult to recruit permanent members of staff.

"Using agency staff to cover seasonal work or time-limited projects keeps costs down by reducing the need to employ individuals on permanent contracts.

"If some roles were left vacant this would impact significantly on our ability to meet the needs of our residents (eg social workers helping vulnerable children and older people)."