A COUNCILLOR has hit out at Barrow Borough Council over the issue of payments made to consultants and outside agencies.

Veteran Tory councillor Hazel Edwards challenged the authority on the amount of money they have paid outside experts at a meeting of the council’s executive committee.

The councillor, who has served on the council for 30 years, was angry at learning £15,000 was going to be spent on consultancy fees regarding devolution proposals the council is working on.

Councillors agreed to fork out the money. Cllr Edwards was the only member to abstain from the vote.

“Why can’t we use our own experts instead of throwing money at gurus, experts, consultants, and mystical soothsayers when we have our own in-house experts that we pay a good wage to already," she said.

Councillor Derek Brook, who chaired the meeting, defended the latest spend on consultants. He said the authority had shed staff in recent years due to reforms and there was a greater need to call on consultants for expert advice on certain issues.

He explained: “We have less and less staff due to reforms by successive governments, meaning we have less staff now and so the need to call in the consultants is time sensitive and we need all this research done now.”

The issue was raised during a discussion on the amalgamation and devolution proposals for three local authorities in south Cumbria and North Lancashire to work together more closely.

Councillor Edwards was told by the committee that research needed to be done quickly and key information needed to be identified on how the changes would potentially work.

The devolving of powers to regions and creating regional mayors will be the biggest shake-up to local government since the 1970s and will see South Lakeland District Council, Lancaster City Council and Barrow Borough Council work together. The councils want to explore ways they can together build on their collective strengths in areas such as energy, advanced manufacturing, digital technologies, life sciences and the visitor economy.