DORSET County Council has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on consultants to advise it how to save money. It more than doubled its bill for external experts in the first three months of this year.

Spending on temporary staff during January to March was £360,000 more than the same period in 2013.

And the bill for ‘consultancy and self-employed workers’ excluding the Dorset Waste Partnership has jumped from £366,500 in Quarter Three to £748,000 in Quarter Four.

The council says it is ‘spending to save’ as it enlists the help of experts to hone cost-cutting measures.

Some of the money was spent on advisers for the Better Together business plan, a shake-up of adult social care, and the Forward Together Programme, a bid to save millions over the next few years.

Corporate resources director Paul Kent said: “The point of this expenditure is to try to engage experts in the field to help us deliver savings in the future.

“When you think of what we spend in total on employment, the bill for consultancy and agency staff is only a fraction of that; something like four per cent.

“Expenditure on consultancy now is intended to save us money in the long-term.

“If you spend one-off now and we get £6million to £7million per annum savings in the future, that’s a really good investment.

“We get the money we spent back very quickly.”

He added that some of the bills, such as those for the Better Together consultancy, were funded by central government.

The Non-Directly Employed Contract Workforce Quarter Four report, which will go before councillors today says: “Spending on consultancy and related staff over the year is a little higher than in the previous year.

“In common with the previous year, there is a peak at year end reflecting the processing and accrual of invoices in March to account for work in the correct year.

“The increase is also partly attributable to resources needed to support transformation.”

But critics say it is not good enough.

Cllr Janet Dover said: “Agency staff is one thing because they are invariably covering for sickness and so there’s some justification. But spending so much money on consultants is just unbelievable.

“In this day and age when we are trying to save money, they are spending all that money on consultancy in an attempt to save money – I don’t think people who pay council tax would understand the rationale for that.”

The overall bill for agency, consultancy and self-employed workers works out at £12,754 a day.