Council grilled after hiring enforcement consultant amid £70m budget cuts

Redbridge Town Hall Photo credit: Redbridge Council

Redbridge Town Hall Photo credit: Redbridge Council - Credit: Archant

Questions have been asked over the appointment of a new consultant at cash-strapped Redbridge Council, which plans to cut £70million from its budget.

Unveiling the council’s draft corporate strategy at the neighbourhoods and community services committee last week, deputy leader Cllr Wes Streeting told the meeting: “There will inevitably be cuts to services that people like and value.

“The days of talking about back office savings and protecting the front line [are over], it’s more about what the frontline looks like.”

But Cllr Gwyneth Deakins, deputy leader of the Lib Dem group, grilled Cllr Streeting over the appointment of consultant Mark Benbow.

Referring to the corporate strategy, she said: “There’s no mention of actually talking to the staff and consultation with the staff.

“In the light of what’s been said about that, and the reductions we need to make – money is tight – I understand the council has acquired a consultant.

“I’m surprised we are spending money on this kind of thing.”

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She also questioned whether Mr Benbow – who was previously head of crime partnerships at Redbridge before joining Kensington and Chelsea council as chief community safety officer last year – had gone through the usual application process.

Cllr Streeting said he would refer questions on to council leader Cllr Jas Athwal, who was away at a conference.

A council spokesman said Mr Benbow had been “temporarily employed to deliver urgent strategic and operational work to improve enforcement”.

She said: “It is not a chief officer role, therefore not a post appointable to by members, and there is no new department.

“Whilst the council advertises a range of jobs on Redbridge i, it is not unusual for the council to directly engage people to take forward important pieces of work.”

The spokesman said the council was reviewing its enforcement services to improve “safety and cleanliness”.

She said once completed, the review would be presented to cabinet.

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