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TV review: Consultants are spending Britain's billions

Jacques Peretti asked Who’s Spending Britain’s Billions? (C) Pulse Films Ltd

Who's Spending Britain's Billions? BBC 2, Tuesday at 8pm

Jacques Peretti is a dissatisfying presenter.

All that stock patter about “going on a journey” and “I wanted to find out” so beloved of television producers is just plain annoying.

But putting his dull presenting aside, Peretti made an important television programme and exposed the sheer craziness of the amount of money the public sector spends on management consultants.

He discovered that some of the world's leading management consulting companies are now using a sales technique called “risk and reward.”

In management speak, this is outcomes based remuneration. That means the company gets paid a percentage of their success.

Sounds fair enough, doesn't it?

It works like this. If a local council wants to cut costs because its funding from government is being reduced, the consultants will give advice but rather than presenting a bill, offer to be paid a percentage of the savings.

It's a similar sales technique to the lawyers ‘no win, no fee' or the ‘guaranteed to work or your money back.'

Peretti found that that three councils in Wales had paid over £5 million in this way.

And the consultants were paid at a rate of 16 per cent.

That means that for every £1 cut from local services in these Welsh communities, only 84p was saved for local ratepayers, because 16p was going to the management consultants.

Or to put it another way. Those three councils cut more than £31 million from their budgets but only saved £26 million.

Brilliant. A way to make money out of austerity. Why didn't I think of it?

In this cynical world of upselling, the management company arrives, diagnoses a problem or myriad problems and then sells you a solution.

One insider compared it to the workman who arrives at your house to fix a sticking door and ends up replacing the kitchen.

“You land and expand,” said our management consultancy insider.

Another former consultant told of being at a conference where everyone was excited about this new business model with local councils desperate to cut costs.

It worked particularly well with councils because their management teams were “inexperienced, inconsistent and incompetent,” one salesman told him.

The bit that Peretti didn't mention is that at times it suits senior public servants to get in the consultants, because if it all goes wrong then there's someone to blame.

Why make decisions on how best to supply efficient public services when you can pay someone else with public money to make the decisions for you.

**

Paxman on Trump v Clinton: Divided America, BBC 1, Monday at 9pm

Paxman did everything you would expect in his analysis of this year's US presidential election.

He visited the Lincoln memorial to muse on great leaders; he went to a rust bowl town to see the Trump voters angry at being left behind by globalisation; and he met women outraged that a man like Donald Trump could be president.

He gave us a summary of the campaign thus far; the debates, the insults, and the ‘locker room banter.'

He criss-crossed America to speak to experts and didn't hide his amazement that Trump remained within a few percentage points of Hillary Clinton despite all he had said and done.

The former Newsnight presenter opened with a question: “Has something seriously gone wrong with American politics?”

Eight years ago, he said, America had “a rock star (Obama) singing a song of hope.”

Now, we have “ a spiv wearing a spray tan republicanism.”

But other than a few nice lines, Paxman brought nothing to our understanding of what is happening in American and whether the western system of government is in trouble.

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