EAST Devon District Council (EDDC) spent nearly £800,000 on consultants in just a year but authority bosses have justified the expenditure. A report by the audit and governance committee confirms that EDDC has spent £797,903 on 19 major consultants and 144 smaller ones - ranging from accountants to building experts to tax advisers in the 2010\/2011 financial year. The expenditure, which includes work by the University of Southampton, LDA Design ( for the Exmouth Masterplan), and PricewaterhouseCoopers, is the equivalent to 80per cent of the reserves that the council needed to dip into last year to balance its books. An EDDC spokesman said: There are some 46 lines of work, all concerned with specialist services of one kind or another. In particular, there are many services from architectural or planning consultants who were employed to advise on technical issues on a number of key projects that are, or will be, of significant benefit to the district. The spokesman added that examples included Cranbrook, the Exmouth Masterplan and Seaton Visitor Centre and added that £42,000 was spent for specialist VAT advice, which resulted in a refund of £244,000 - therefore generating £200,000 for the council. Spending on consultants for set periods of time, as and when they are needed, is a recognised and cost-effective way of getting the work done without having highly paid specialists on the full-time payroll, said the spokesman. While the total figure of just under £800,000 may seem like a lot of money, it must be seen in the context of the councils overall annual spend of £83m, of which it is less than one per cent, or the overall economy of East Devon which is some £1.6billion.