An extra £2 million has been earmarked for ‘consultancy services’ by the council as it pushes on with major projects such as the relocation to Mount Pleasant Avenue.
The request for more money was approved by a meeting of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s finance and governance cabinet advisory board this month and will be included as part of the next budget to go before the full council.
It means that between 2013 and 2017, a total of £3 million will have been allocated to the development programme budget, which oversees the delivery of major council projects.
Speaking at the meeting David Candlin, the officer in charge of economic development and regeneration, said: “We are now at the point where we have literally allocated nearly all of the resources from the initial £1 million. Therefore we are seeking an additional budget of £2m for consultancy services.”
The ‘initial’ £1 million has been allocated to the development programme in two instalments since 2013.
It was used to develop plans for 16 projects across the borough, including the Mount Pleasant Avenue development and expansion of the crematorium.
But £998,000 has already been allocated, leading to a request for a further £1 million to be made with ‘immediate effect’, followed by another million, subject to future cabinet approval.
TWBC leader David Jukes said: “Although some of these figures may seem quite alarming, one has to consider that when you are building and you are spending a considerable amount of money – in the region of £50 million – you are looking at fees coming out at about 12 per cent.
“These are (consultancy) fees incurred by the council to ensure we get all the right people. I do not in the short term see this figure increasing.”
But one area of concern raised by Cllr Jukes was whether the council would be able to secure the right consultants given the current development boom in London and the southeast.
He believed this competition may leave the council at a disadvantage when it comes to securing contracts as councilled projects may not have the same ‘appeal’ as those conducted elsewhere.
He added that if this were the case, TWBC may have to consider a ‘plan B’ but he assured those present that the budget ‘would not increase’.
A spokesman for the TaxPayers’ Alliance questioned whether this money was being well spent, at a time when the government is cutting council budgets.
He said: “This is a huge amount of money that is not going into front line services. High quality advice from the private sector can be a good thing even with a hefty price tag, but all too often arrangements such as these simply mean consultants charging fat fees to tell councillors and staff things they should already know.”