QUESTIONS have been raised about Bradford Council’s plans to pay a consultant £1 million to research how the authority can make savings.

At a meeting of the Council’s Executive today, members will be asked to agree to a deal with London based consultancy group Impower to look at how the Council can reduce costs in the coming years.

A local campaign group has questioned the deal at a time when Council budgets across the country will face huge strain due to the impact of Covid 19.

But the Council says its work with group has helped cut millions from it’s budget in recent years, and has a “proven track record.”

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During the Executive meeting, which is being held online this morning, members will be asked to approve the continuation of the contract with Impower, using £1m that was allocated for this purpose in February.

It says the contract will improve outcomes in services where “significant changes to service delivery are being undertaken,” provide a return on investment on the work undertaken and a sustained improvement in performance and value for money, and increase the skills within the Council so that more capacity exists to remodelling services in the future.

Another section of the meeting’s agenda looks at how the authority is facing budget issues due to the Covid 19 pandemic and lockdown.

The Bradford People’s Assembly Against Austerity has raised concerns that such a high value contract is being awarded at a time when the authority needs to tighten purse strings. A spokesman said: “The two papers appear not to be saying the same thing and would suggest that the Council have spent a lot of money for very little in return, so providing Impower with a further £1m cannot be a sensible decision or recommendation.

“We are aware that the Council has spent a lot of money on consultants over the past 10 years and there is little evidence to support that they help to deliver savings or better services.”

A Council spokesperson said: “The proposed decision relates to engaging external expertise to improve outcomes in critical services like Adult Social Care and Children’s Services.

“We continue to face increasing cost pressures in both these services and therefore we must continue to review how we work to ensure we are delivering services effectively as possible.

“We have brilliant staff in Bradford Council who are working flat out to deliver day to day operations. However, on top of the day job we can’t expect them to also work on new models of delivery and deliver these in parallel to doing business as usual.

“Impower has a proven track record and expertise in transforming service delivery and securing cost efficiencies.

“Their previous work with our Health and Wellbeing directorate has contributed to a saving of £6.4 million over the last year. At the same time the service has achieved higher service user satisfaction rates. This coming financial year Health and Wellbeing has to achieve £9.6 million of additional savings which, inevitably, will be a challenge when our frontline workers are so busy with protecting those in our care from COVID-19. This is a short-term investment which will pay dividends. We should achieve a clear return on investment within the year. ”