Council consultant's parting shot to authority

A CONSULTANT who reportedly cost a cash-strapped council more than £1,000 a day has bowed out from the authority.

A CONSULTANT who reportedly cost a cash-strapped council more than £1,000 a day has bowed out from the authority.

Keith Ireland, who was working for Northumberland County Council at a cost of £1,175 per day for less than six months, is understood to have departed just before Christmas.

The council came under fire for paying that amount for the work of one man at a time when it has to make tens of millions of pounds in savings and cut up to 1,000 jobs.

Last night, council chiefs confirmed Mr Ireland had left the authority having completed the work he was contracted to do, but refused to give details of the total cost of his time there.

It also emerged that in the days before his departure he sent a scathing email to Rothbury councillor Steven Bridgett. Coun Bridgett uncovered the consultant’s huge cash rewards in a Freedom of Information request.

Mr Ireland began working at the council on January 25 last year having been hired through consultant Gatenby Sanderson. He was brought in to undertake a review of the council’s senior management structure.

From April 1, Mr Ireland was then appointed on an interim basis to cover the vacant posts of deputy chief executive and corporate director of local services.

For his work up until July 16, he cost the council £131,600 – £1,175 a day. Mr Ireland continued to cover the two posts until September 24. As of September 27, he was engaged by the council on an interim basis to oversee single status negotiations and to cover the vacant post of head of legal and democratic services.

A council spokesman said last night: “We can confirm he has gone and it is because he has completed the work he was contracted to do.”

The authority would not provide details of the total cost of Mr Ireland’s time there, or say whether £1,175 per day was paid throughout his stay.

The council has previously defended that figure, insisting it was paying the going market rate, while Gatenby Sanderson has refused to say how much of the money made up the consultant’s salary.

Based on the £131,600 figure for just under six months, the total cost for Mr Ireland’s 11-month stay would have been around £241,266, if £1,175 a day was forked out for the duration.

The Journal can reveal Mr Ireland sent an email to Rothbury county councillor Steven Bridgett in the days before his departure, which Coun Bridgett claims came across as “sour grapes”.

In the email, Mr Ireland claimed the councillor must be “telepathic” for raising issues which had been discussed in team meetings.

He used the phrase “Wow” in capital letters three times.

Last night, Coun Bridgett said: “No individual at Northumberland County Council should be paid £1,175 a day.

“There are much bigger priorities at the council that this money could be spent on, like protecting frontline services.”

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