Kilkenny County Council spent over €1m on consultants last year, figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request have revealed.
The Kilkenny People sought a breakdown of the local authority’s expenditure up to October of last year and under operation expenses the Council spent €1,049,138 on “consultancy and professional fees”.
The Council says the bill only accounts for 1% of its Capital and Revenue budgets. Sinn Féin Councillor Sean Tyrrell said it must be taken into consideration that there have been “huge infrastructure projects” in the county over the last number of years.
He said: “Without having a breakdown of how and where the monies were spent it would seem to me like a high figure but we must take into consideration the huge infrastructure projects in Kilkenny over the years and into the future.”
Cllr Tyrrell added: “While announcements from Government that public sector hiring freezes are over that’s not the experience on the ground and unless we provide opportunities for people to enter employment in our public services it will continue to have a knock on effect for our local authorities.”
Green Party Councillor Malcolm Noonan said that outside expertise is essential to the provision of services, plans and policies of Council but that there are areas where there is a wide range and decades of knowledge within the local authority that could be used for certain projects.
“While I absolutely recognise the need to bring in specific outside expertise for work such as Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), I do think that through increased training in specific areas such as collaborative community planning that our staff would be more than capable of doing all the work internally for development plans and local area plans,” he said.
Cllr Noonan cited an example of the Viking triangle in Waterford where most of the project was designed in house using Waterford city’s architect.
“The skills base within our local authority is vast and diverse. If we consider a project as complex as the recent restoration of St Mary’s church, that entire project was headed up internally using our conservation architect.
“In the past we would have put that work out to tender but an exceptional job was done using our own team,” he added.
In a statement to the Kilkenny People, Director of Services at Kilkenny County Council, Tim Butler, said: “Consultants are required for the full range of services undertaken by Kilkenny County Council including Housing, Roads, Water and Planning.”