NEW figures show the huge cost to taxpayers of hiring consultants and agency workers at Wirral Council.

The Globe can reveal that in the last six months the council has spent around £2.5m on freelance staff - and £16,000 per week on consultants.

The sums have been described by a trade union leader as "extraordinary."

The council said employing interims is a good way of providing a short-term injection of capacity, quickly and cost effectively.

One consultant - who worked on plans that led to the closure of Lyndale special school - is working for the authority on a wage of nearly £4,000 a week and has been doing so since early 2014.

Phillip Ward was involved with drawing up proposals to shut the much-loved school and is the interim senior manager of Special Educational Needs pulling a weekly pay packet of £3,875.

Yet his remuneration is just the tip of an iceberg for consultants employed by the supposedly cash-strapped town hall.

Among the highest earning individuals are:

Financial consultant Julie Alderson @ £903 a day, 18 days per month; developing a five-year budget strategy. Her contract ends next February.

Paul Masterman @ £850 per day; carrying out a strategic review of public engagement. The council is increasing his working hours from two to four days a week and his contract is due to finish this November.

And 'alternative delivery models' consultant Stephen Butterworth @ £603 per day, five days a week. His contract is due to end on December 31.

Wirral Council Unison branch secretary Paddy Cleary said workers will find the revelations "extraordinary."

Speaking exclusively to the Globe he said: "It is against everything that trade unionists and a Labour-controlled authority should stand for.

'It is a kick in the teeth for staff, many of whom are facing massive pay cuts.

"Some staff are looking at having £4,000 slashed from their salaries next May under cost-cutting measures.

"It is entirely unacceptable to Unison that this council can pay such massive sums to consultants while at the same time pushing dedicated staff members to the brink.

"People facing a £4,000 reduction in wages will wonder how this possibly can be justified - and how they will manage to pay their mortgages."

Joe Blott, Wirral’s strategic director of transformation and resources, said: "We do not recognise the figures the Wirral Globe has supplied as figures we have supplied direct to the trade unions, but confirm that they are a rough approximation of the figures that are involved.

"The senior manager of Special Educational Needs post became vacant early last year.

"Due to the nature of the job, which involves making sure that we support pupils with special needs, and ensuring that Government and council decisions and policies around special needs are put into action, leaving the post vacant was not an option.

"A consultant was therefore engaged to fill the role in January 2014.

"Work on the consultation around Lyndale School has been a small part of that role, which also involves implementing policy and reforms around special needs education.

"The cost is partially met by the salary from that vacant post.

"The post is still vacant because despite advertising, we have been unable to appoint due to a lack of suitable candidates "However, a new recruitment agency has had some success, and we are confident that the post will be filled soon."

Mr Blott continued: "Like any large organisation, we do from time to time need to bring in extra expertise.

"Employing interims is a good way of providing a short-term injection of capacity, quickly and cost effectively.

"We have 20 major priorities to deliver for local people by 2020, from eradicating health inequalities, to creating economic opportunities, to ensuring people have access to high quality jobs.

"The consultants we have appointed work alongside our current management team.

"They were appointed following due process as best people for the job in their areas of expertise."