CRITICS have blasted councillors for spending millions of pounds of Dorset taxpayers' money on consultant work their own staff should be doing.

A Freedom of Information request by the Dorset Echo discovered Dorset County Council spent almost £5 million in the last four years.

More than £2 million was spent on work for environmental services and £306,667 on social care and adult services.

Corin Taylor, spokesman for the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "The real test of consultants' work is whether you have better services and lower council tax as a result. Often that doesn't happen.

"Councils spend millions on consultants but at the same time they cut services and put up the number of staff they employ and what they pay them. So council tax payers seem to be paying more and getting less."

The figures show the amount spent on consultant fees has increased over the last four years, with the exception of a slight drop in the last year.

In the period 2003-4 £900,907 was spent - compared to £1,368,000 two years later.

Elaine Taylor, director for corporate resources at Dorset County Council, said: "It is inappropriate to monitor the monetary value of these consultants.

"Their input into projects need to be validated by the outcomes and benefits of the work that they have delivered or contributed to."

The council also paid financial experts at Deloitte £350,000 earlier this year to advise it how to save money. It needed help to get around a £20 million shortfall. Critics said the advice from Deloitte after four months work included very obvious suggestions.