CONSULTANTS cost County Hall more than £8.6million last year.

Figures released following a Freedom of Information request reveal the amount spent in the 2012/3 financial year.

Spending included a £1.5million fee to PricewaterhouseCoopers as part of the authority’s money-saving Customer Transformation Programme.

County Hall has also already spent £2.5million up until the end of November this financial year, including £184,000 to Ricardo AEA Ltd for work on biowaste.

The authority also spent £33.9million on agency staff last year, and has clocked up £18.5million until the end of November this financial year.

In a statement the county council said: “The use of consultants can be a cost effective way of accessing professional expertise in relation to short-term or one-off pieces of work, where there is no or inadequate in-house capacity or capability.

“For example consultants have been used on a number of the council’s ambitious transformation projects to enable the council to concentrate spending on frontline services.

“Essex County Council has a continual drive to reduce costs in this area to improve value for money."

But councillor Jamie Huntman, Ukip group leader at County Hall, said: “The officers at County Hall seem very capable and skilled in their areas of expertise so why is it we need to create another tier of expenses?”