Leafing through the paperwork for this recent citizens’ jury on waste, which has finally been published and can be viewed on the city council’s website, I was particularly struck by the costs charged by the chosen consultants OPM.
They included a charge of £1,625 to “facilitate 2 x 2.5 hour workshops (at the start and end of the process)”. I calculate that to be a charge of £325 an hour. What kind of workshop was this?
“Ah,” I hear you say, “but there must be preparation time included in that as well.”
Indeed there was preparation time. Another £1,875 worth of it to be precise. This means the real rate for these two workshops was £3,500 or £700 an hour if you prefer.
Is this really good value for our money? And why couldn’t the council’s handsomely funded Corporate Consultation Unit do this work anyway? Aren’t we effectively having to pay twice to be consulted now?
The consultants selected for this exercise, OPM (Office for Public Management Ltd) make a big play of the fact that they are a ‘not-for-profit company’. Big deal. That doesn’t mean they’re a ‘not-fat-salaries-courtesy-of-the-taxpayer’ company does it? Indeed if they pay large enough wages out there’ll not make a profit anyway will they?
With all these large fees coming from the taxpayer, it’ll probably come as little surprise to most people that OPM are very close indeed to New Labour. One of their directors was even a researcher for Tessa Jowell until recently, which must make access to those lucrative public sector contracts just that little bit easier don’t you think?
OPM’s Diane Beddoes who ran the citizens’ jury in Bristol also has an ultra-Blairite background. She used to work for Opinion Leader Research, a market research company that was investigated by the Market Research Society because of its links to the Labour Party. More recently they were mired in more controversy when they were accused of running a rigged consultation on nuclear power for New Labour.
Whether any of this has any bearing on the decision of Bristol’s Labour administration to prefer OPM to their vastly cheaper in-house consultation unit is something I’ll leave for you to decide.