Councils across the north and north-east have spent more than £60million drafting in consultants, the Press and Journal can reveal.
Official figures show the local authorities have spent a combined £63,130,153.50 on bringing in specialists to provide advice on a whole range of projects.
The statistics, obtained through freedom of information requests, cover the 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 financial years.
Aberdeen City Council spent more than £30million, while Highland Council paid out £16million and Aberdeenshire Council £10million.
Shetland and Orkney spent more than £4million and £1million respectively. Moray Council did not respond to the FOI request.
Highland Council drafted in specialist contractors, architects and engineers to help upgrade the Fort William Office, and upgrading of Inverness Castle to create a viewing platform.
Consultants were brought in by Aberdeenshire Council at cost of £718,936 to help with flood alleviation studies in Stonehaven, with £35,000 spent on the Blackburn Kinnellar School build and £18,214 on advice for the Old Royal Station rebuild in Ballater.
The authority – which had to make £22million of savings this year – also spent £5,000 getting advice on creating a new colour for a corporate rebrand.
In Orkney, £1million was spent on various consultancy fees including for a study on inter-island transport and a survey of Scapa Flow.
Aberdeen City and Shetland councils could not provide a breakdown of the projects they sought experts for.
Last night, North East MSP Liam Kerr said the spending on consultants was due to budget constraints.
“When a decision is made to bring in outside expertise, councils must ensure they are getting value for money” he said.
“Ongoing expenditure should also be reviewed regularly to avoid any unnecessary spending.”
SNP councillor Richard Thomson said that while figures for the region may come as a “surprise” it is only part of the overall spend.
He said: “Most people will probably be surprised at this figure. However, it’s important to remember that this amounts to just over half of 1% of the council’s total spend over three years.
“Following the council’s review of governance which took place under the last SNP/Labour administration, significant improvements were made to the way that councillors could scrutinise all major spending up-front, including on consultancy.
“Having that effective spending scrutiny in place is important in making sure that the council gets the best value for money it can in all its major procurement activity.”
A spokeswoman for Shetland Council said the local authority use consultants where certain skills cannot be delivered by their own staff and pointed out that the cost makes up less than 1% of their annual expenditure.
Highland Council said the “bulk” of money going on specialists and is part of delivering their capital programme which amounts to £100million a year.
A spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire Council said they only use specialist consultants when “absolutely necessary.”
She added: “We have used private consultants for issues such flood protection and landslip stabilisation for example, where specialist knowledge is crucial.”
Aberdeen City Council said a lot of the costs were related to specialist advice the local authority received on major infrastructure projects such as the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) and the new exhibition centre.
A local authority spokeswoman said: “The information includes fees to third party contractors in relation to the AWPR, TECA, and a range of other capital projects which accounts for the bulk of the costs incurred.”
A Highland Council spokeswoman said the majority of the money spent on consultants related to the local authority’s capital plan.
She said: “The bulk of the consultancy and specialist fees expenditure is in delivering a capital programme of around £100million per annum.
“For specialist services, it is not necessarily cost effective, nor possible for the council to employ specialist staff directly, however this is kept under review and where practicable, and where skills and expertise may exist within the organisation, we do try to deliver in-house but this is not always possible.”