Money spent on external advice increased fourfold overnight
The annual amount spent by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on consultancy services has more than quadrupled in the past two years.
In the 2017/18 year, the department spent £2.7m on consultancy services; this figure rose by £600,000 in each of the two subsequent years: first to £3.3m and then, in 2019/20, to £3.9m.
There was then a marked rise in the 2020/21 year, when DCMS spent £16.6m on consultants. This was, of course, the year marked by the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The department’s responsibilities in delivering government’s Covid response included supporting the administration of the £750m support fund for voluntary, community and social enterprises.
DCMS has also led work on several major programmes and new pieces of legislation, including the Online Safety Bill and the UK’s post-Brexit data-protection regime.
In the 2021/22 year, when much of this continue or intensified, the department saw its annual consultancy spend rise further still, to a little over £17.5m.
The figures were recently disclosed by then-digital infrastructure minister Julia Lopez, in answer to a written parliamentary question from Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain.
Lopez added: “Values include VAT that is non-recoverable, whilst VAT that is recoverable has been deducted accordingly. The values for FY21/22 are subject to change following audit and the final value will be published in the DCMS Annual Report and Accounts FY21/22.”
The minister left government last week in a joint resignation issued with four other colleagues – including Conservative leadership hopeful Kemi Badenoch. Lopez had spent two and half years in roles focused on digital government, network infrastructure, and the technology economy.