BURY Council has come under fire over its spending on ‘outside consultants’.

At a meeting of full council last Wednesday, Conservative leader Cllr James Daly claimed that, by the end of the financial year, the council will have spent £3.4 million on employing outside consultants in two years.

He described the expense as ‘the wrong call’ and asked council leader Rishi Shori whether the money might have been better spent on ‘projects impacting the most vulnerable’.

Cllr Daly said: “We have two new interim directors, and will soon have a new director for transformation. By the end of this financial year, taking into account the last two years, we have spent £3.4 million on outside consultants, which could have been spent on front line services.”

However, Cllr Shori hit back to say that since 2010, the council had been forced to make £18 million worth of cuts to its workforce, resulting in the loss of around 600 staff.

He added: “That has meant we are stretched in terms of capacity. Over the last eight years, the goalposts have changed.

“You can’t expect this council to meet all our objectives when there are so many less staff than in 2010. You cannot expect us not to look outside the borough.”

In September, the council’s cabinet member for finance and housing, Eamonn O’Brien, was forced to defend packages paid to top town hall officers in response to criticism from a Tory councillor. Cllr Nick Jones questioned why big salaries and pensions were being paid to new bosses, while the authority was under huge budgetary pressure and forecasting a £3.1m overspend by the end of this financial year.

He expressed fears that the council would become one with ‘too many chiefs and no one to do the work’.

But Cllr O’Brien defended the salaries of officers, including new chief executive Geoff Little, who he described as having ‘huge experience’.

He added that the council had made additions to the senior leadership team ‘to build the capacity to make the changes we need to make, or the council will not survive’.