Council leaders are under pressure to explain why they spent almost £2m on management consultants after their cost-cutting measures fell short of targets, with some of them now reversed altogether.

Norfolk County Council had hoped the experts from PA Consulting would identify ways for it to reduce spending by up to £20m a year.

But after just one year the authority ended its arrangement with the firm, with critics saying the savings have been significantly lower than promised, and that some of them have since been reversed.

The council's finances remain extremely stretched and next week it is due to agree to a raft of £45m of cuts and savings, as part of its budget for next year.

The proposed measures include shutting recycling centres once a week and making people with disabilities pay more for their care.

Opposition councillors have questioned the £1.9m spent on the consultants and claim they have seen no evidence of what they achieved.

Eastern Daily Press: Recycling centres could be shut once a weekRecycling centres could be shut once a week (Image: Archant)


When Conservative-controlled County Hall brought in PA Consulting in 2022, leaders said it would bring savings of up to £20m a year through a strategic review.

In 2023/24, that led to £17m of savings and, in the current year, £12m of the savings were attributed to that review.

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquartersNorfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters (Image: Mike Page)

But, in the council's budget due to be agreed next week, of 11 sections which refer to the strategic review, seven of them are reversals of previous savings - adding £3.8m to the budget.

Eastern Daily Press: Green county councillor Jamie OsbornGreen county councillor Jamie Osborn (Image: Jamie Osborn)

Jamie Osborn, leader of the Green group at County Hall, challenged Andrew Jamieson, the council's cabinet member for finance, about that at a meeting of the authority's scrutiny committee this week.

He said: "Last year it was £17m, now its £12m and now it is talking about reversing £3.8m of savings from last year. Do you think that has been successful?"

The council dispensed of PA Consulting's services after just a year.

Eastern Daily Press: Andrew Jamieson, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for financeAndrew Jamieson, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for finance (Image: Norfolk County Council)


But Mr Jamieson said the "absolutely necessary" work by consultants had spurred the council's own transformation programme to find more efficient ways of working.

He said: "I think without that transformation programme, it would have been absolutely impossible to make the savings we are making, without making severe cuts to the services we are giving.

"Transformation and the strategic review are one and the same. They are leading to the same thing, which is to continue to deliver services effectively, whilst costing less money."

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group and chairman of the scrutiny committee, said he had not been against the strategic review - but that it had not gone far enough.

Eastern Daily Press: Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour groupSteve Morphew, leader of the Labour group (Image: Archant)

He questioned where the evidence was to show attempts to transform services had been successful.

Eastern Daily Press: Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for public health and wellbeingBill Borrett, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for public health and wellbeing (Image: Bill Borrett)

Mr Jamieson said he would provide examples, while Bill Borrett, cabinet member for public health and wellbeing, said consultants should not be a "dirty word".