Local elections: Julia Hartley-Brewer grills MP on potential delays
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Bury county council is spending thousands of pounds to hire a consultant based 100-miles away in Herefordshire to help organise May’s local elections. The taxpayer money was given to the council by the Government as part of a COVID-19 expenditure pressures grant in December.
While the grant was “unringfenced” and can be used however the council sees necessary, the Government said the priorities for the grant were adult social care, children’s services, public health services and household waste services.
Councillor Nick Jones, Leader of Bury Conservatives, said he was “at a loss” as to how the Labour-run council could justify the spending.
He said: “I question the costs of this appointment and at a loss that the Council does not believe they have the skills in house to deliver an election especially as there is an Elections Manager along with a Legal & Democratic Services team with years of experience.
“Bury Council have been running elections since the 1970s and 2021 will be no different, other than ensuring it is Covid safe.
“The Labour Council in Bury have a long history of spending hundreds of thousands in consultancy fees.
“I question the value for money aspect, I am intrigued at how the Labour Council can justify the spend especially from Covid grants.”
Cllr Jones said the average weekly salary was £450, almost half of the daily rate being paid in consultancy fees to run the election.
He said it was “a kick in the teeth the hardworking council officers” that Labour councillors did not trust them to run the election on their own.
“I am truly amazed that the Labour Council consider this to be a moral way to use Governments Covid grants paying London style, private sector, consultant salaries,” he added.
While Bury council is spending thousands in consultancy fees, business owners across the country are struggling to access funding from local authorities.
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In November Chancellor Rishi Sunak set aside £1.6billion in funds for councils to hand out to businesses struggling because of the pandemic.
But freedom of information requests sent by the Events Industry Alliance (EIA) indicates just 13 percent of the money had been handed out.
The figures suggest councils are still sitting on around £1.4 billion, the EIA found.
Deputy Leader of Bury Conservatives Paul Cropper said: “Businesses and our communities are struggling due to this pandemic.
“I believe the council should focus on supporting the very people who elect them not outside consultants.
“I am astonished that the Council can find £700 a day in Consultancy fees but unable to support home business workers who have had nothing from Bury Council since the pandemic began.
“2020 was a horrible year for residents and businesses both in Bury and across the country.”
Express.co.uk has contacted Bury Council for comment.
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