Thursday, 6 October 2011

A Consultant Calls

Some might say it's money well spent. Others may disagree. The Vagrants do of course refer to the 'summary detail of the annual accounts for 2007-8' released by the University of Salford after some delay - the original request for this information was submitted on the 28th November 2009. The requester Mr Damien Shannon should be commended for his staying power and tenacity. Given the explosive nature of many of these 'operating expenses', it is clear why the University fought tooth and nail to prevent their release. It also begs the question regarding the concept of openness and transparency within what is after all a public authority, funded from the taxpayers purse and increasingly the student wallet.

Of particular interest - CONSULTANCY F££S

We decided to focus on one particular feature of these accounts, a service that has obvious benefits for staff and students alike - we refer to University expenditure on consultancy fees. We make this comment as the University appear to have deemed these particular services worthy of some considerable investment during this period. A comprehensive list of this expenditure has been compiled from the accounts which readers can view here. A quick glance at our dog-eared ready reckoner suggests the figure is lurking in the region known in the numbers trade as £3,961,109 or very nearly £4 million. Dr Graves would have to recruit around  about 480.1 students to cover these costs.

With scientific calculator in hand, we did a rough calculation and surmised from our reckonings that the University invested an average of roughly £76,175 or 9.23 students every week on these ardent-value-for-money-transmitters during the accounting period 2007-08. We continued to break this down and it worked out that the University spent in the region of £10,852 or 1.31 of a student every day of the year including the weekends, Easter and Christmas holidays, Eid and the summer recess.*

An idea of how extensively value was imparted into the overall student experience in 2007-08

Project Headroom and its adherents...

Deputy Dawg: should he consult Muskie
or Vince and if so at what cost?
What is of significance is the year these phenomenal sums were spent. It's difficult to ascertain if the precise extent of this expenditure on consultants under the dual steerage of former Vice Chancellor Harloe and extant Deputy Vice Chancellor Adrian Graves, was brought to the attention of the campus unions during the negotiations around the rather ridiculously appellated 'Project Headroom' in 2008? After all, one of the principal arguments for axing 150 jobs was the claim that it was absolutely necessary to create 'financial headroom' - or what are colloquially known as 'savings' - in order to provide funding for what were seen by Graves, Harloe and the shrewdly named 'Strategic Leadership Team' as essential future investments. Given that the summary detail of the accounts 2008-09 haven't been released to staff or the unions (will it take another FOI for this information to be divulged?), it's not known if the figures for consultancies decreased, remained the same or increased in 2008-09 or 2009-10. If Dr Graves wishes to clear this matter up he can by emailing this information to the Vagrants here.

Why the need for job cuts? Why not cut the consultants?

What is certain is that questions need asking of Martin Hall and Graves about these massive sums spent on consultants. Questions such as 'are they necessary?' or 'what value do they bring to staff and more importantly to students?' Some might also wish to ask 'have hundreds our valued colleagues forfeited their jobs to fund costly firms of consultants?'

More overspends?

The recent 'overspend' of £2.5 million on the new IT systems at the University of Salford voted through by University Council coupled with allegations circulating within the University that the library closures transformation of library services has risen from an estimated £1 million to £4.5 million, might give those threatened with redundancy and redeployment some food for thought. It raises what are in our opinion fundamental questions like - WHO IS ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ALLOWING THIS HUGE WASTE OF MONEY TO CONTINUE? We've just thought of another question that's equally as pertinent given such profligacy with the public purse - SHOULDN'T THE PERSON WHO HAS OVERSEEN THIS SORRY STATE OF AFFAIRS BE SACKED FOR GROSS INCOMPETENCE?

Pest Control

Jack Black
On to more mundane spending matters. We note from the above accounts that the Office of the Vice Chancellor and Registrar spent £87.88 on pest control. 'Pest control' is not we think an arcane reference to the legal fees spent on the libel case against Dr Gary Duke originator of the Rat Catchers of the Sewers blog as one person suggested. After all the Rat Catchers of the Sewers only began posting in 2009. Given the breakdown of legal costs to the University so far, we're of the opinion that the University would never consider spending such a lowly figure on this type of 'pest control' when they could spend in the region of £40,000, which approximates the figure expended so far in the civil courts by Professor Martin Hall and Dr Adrian Graves. What is clear is that this libel claim will prove costly to them in more than financial terms.

Other costs - taxis and coaches

What do they mean by the word 'coach'?
It also remains to be seen whether the £20,392 spent on taxis and coaches by the Academic Registrars Department, the £1,463.2 spent on the same by the Offices of the Vice Chancellor and Registrar or the £73,346 spent by Estates on such essential modes of transport will prove to be value for money. The phenomenal total of £219,823 spent on the above would suggest a lot of coaches have been necessary on a day-to-day basis at Salford. This is not to suggest that some expenditure is not necessary on taxis. The question is, given that it's such a huge sum, can it be proved that the bulk of this expenditure was necessary?

An argument to be put

There's clearly an argument to be put here by Chris Sheehy and the Salford UCU who are resisting job cuts at the moment. It goes something along the lines of 'Dear Martin... can you provide us with complete assurances and detailed evidence to show that all such unnecessary expenditure has ceased in the years 2008-09/2009-10 before we consider discussing a single job loss with the University.'

Notes and References

The Vagrants would like to hear from staff and students with their own experiences of such matters. Any information received will be treated in the strictest confidence. To contact us press here.

*This is at a student exchange rate today of around 1 student =£8250. Due to political expediency, the value of students may fluctuate.

Usual disclaimer: This work is the opinion of the author and is produced in order to report current events that are of public interest and public concern. The reproduction and use of any documents herein is to provide accuracy in order to avoid civil litigation and claims of misquoting. In reporting current events they are used within the context of Fair Dealing. The author is happy to provide further acknowledgement if requested. To make any such request press here.

The author also suggests that before embarking upon expensive civil actions for libel, contact the author. We have reams of documentary evidence which we are happy to provide. A right of reply also operates. We are also happy to make corrections. So, to save £££sss please avail yourself of this opportunity if you feel it necessary, which you can do by clicking here.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations! I'm glad they had the sense to drop the court case (not that they had a leg to stand on) and good luck for the future.