Hundreds of thousands of pounds has been paid to consultants for projects which never happened in Preston.
In the past four years, bosses at Preston Council have spent almost £1.5m on outside consultants, including more than £250,000 on schemes which never happened.
An Evening Post investigation has revealed council bosses paid fees totalling £154,180.90 to Drivers Jonas Deloitte, and £27,500 to Benoy for the doomed Tithebarn scheme.
They also paid fees of £110,159 to Landscape Projects for schemes including the failed Flag Market revamp plans, which included seven 50ft electric banners branded ‘tacky’ when unveiled.
Today Preston councillor Martyn Rawlinson, who is the council’s cabinet member for resources, defended the payments, claiming the council needed to be bold to develop.
But he stressed not all the cash came from the public purse.
He said: “Whenever the council uses consultants, we have to make our best judgement as to whether we have the skills at the council to do it, and what the benefit for any future scheme might be to the council and the city.
“Any money we spend there is always a risk, but if you do not get the results it seems like a waste of money. But if you never risk anything you will not get anywhere.”
He added: “It is not always council money. Sometimes it is somebody else’s money, perhaps a developer or a grant, it is not always council money.”
Coun Rawlinson said the failed projects were undertaken during the previous Conservative-led administration during a time when there was an abundance of funding.
He said: “A few years ago there was a lot of money washing around for projects and we have done very well historically for grants like the Flag Market, Avenham and Miller Parks and Moor Park which will soon be done with the drainage.
“We have won millions of pounds but sometimes you have got to put money in to get projects off the ground.”
The council’s biggest consultancy bill between 2008 and 2012 was £466,433 paid to Price Waterhouse Coopers.
Bosses said the company was able to recoup £2.3m for the council in overpaid VAT rates.
Among the other major outlays was £73,020 to Turner and Townsend Project Management for the Harris Museum ‘Guild Gallery Project’, while it paid Appleyard and Trew LLP a total of £28,275 for the same scheme.
The Chase Consultants Ltd received £37,005 for its role in creating Preston Guild’s branding and marketing, while £54,020 was paid to Capita Symonds Limited for the introduction of a new financial accounting system, leisure services and a survey at Preston Crematorium.
Bernard Hayes, deputy chief executive of Preston Council, said outside consultants usually brought a significant financial benefit to the council.
He said: “The Council is a £100m operation servicing hundreds of thousands of customers and employing over 1,000 staff.
“We use consultants for specialist advice that the Council does not have in-house; or for short term projects where in-house capacity is limited.
“In all circumstances, the council has robust procurement and monitoring procedures in place to ensure it receives value for money.”