Cash-strapped councils across the region have spent more than £6 million on asking for advice from consultancy firms during the past year, new figures show.
Outside experts were brought in to help with a range of projects including drawing up plans to revamp schools and working on funding bids. Bosses say the authorities often employ consultants to provide independent advice or skills which their worksforces do not have. The amount that they are needed can vary from year to year, the authorities say.
The biggest spender during the financial year 2011/12 was Wolverhampton City Council which paid out £2,127,467. It was up from £1,929,807 in the previous year.
It was followed by Sandwell Council which spent a total of £2,152,107.35 in 2011/12, up from £2,023,913.
Procurement strategy officer Karen Stringer said: "There are two main projects that the council has been involved in which would result in a higher than normal requirement for the employment of consultants. They are Building Schools for the Future and the Integrated Waste & Cleansing Services Contract."
Dudley Council spent £1,801,805 during 2011,down from £2,570,410 in 2010. Councillor Pete Lowe, cabinet member for finance, said: "Money spent on consultants to provide independent, professional advice and expertise on a range of issues represents value for money."
Elsewhere Walsall Council paid out £547,712 in 2011/12 which was down from £879,048 during the previous 12 months.
Stafford Borough Council spent £181,402 during the period compared with £181,408 in 2010/11. Spokesman William Conaghan said consultancy firms were employed to "carry out necessary work or training the council does not have the resources or expertise to do itself."
Cannock Chase Council did not employ consultancy firms last year.