Suffolk County Council has defended its decision to hire £350-a-day ‘harassment and bullying investigators’.
The authority is recruiting the freelance specialists to tackle bullying deemed too specialist to be handled by its HR team.
An unspecified number of investigators – thought to be two – are being brought in on a case-by-case basis. The council refused to say how long they are contracted for.
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “This seems an unnecessarily expensive way to investigate bullying allegations. The council already spends large amounts on HR staff, so why does it not have anyone capable of doing this job in-house?
“Taxpayers are constantly told they must pay more to foot the bill for high-quality staff, but when problems need solving, councils always seem to reach for external staff and consultants. It’s time they got a grip,” he said.
But a council spokeswoman insisted harassment and bullying cases were nearly always resolved quickly, internally and at no cost.
“However, on the much more rare occasions that we can’t resolve the case internally and quickly, we must rely on highly specialist, objective investigators to deal with a case,” she said.
“Where the investigator prevents a matter becoming a tribunal or court case, then clearly the financial saving to the council is potentially very great,” she added.
Suffolk said it had revised and re-launched its bullying policy, which includes the recruitment of several additional staff to act as internal advisers and mediators in a bid to reduce the use of external investigators.