Council chiefs have been accused of squandering cash after agreeing to pay consultants up to £50,000 to look at the impact of cuts on the poorest in the area.

Up to 20,000 households in Brighton and Hove are believed to be affected by the Government’s decision to revamp the welfare system.

But, instead of spending the money to support charities and other frontline organisations, Brighton and Hove City Council is advertising for a private firm to carry out a study into those affected.

The local authority claims it will help it make more sense of the “complex” topic and target support to those who are most in need.

But others believe the £50,000, which came out of a ring-fenced NHS budget, could have been spent more wisely.

A whistleblower, who raised the issue with The Argus, said: “This cash could have been invested in public health aims around mitigating the actual impact of the current climate.

“It could have done a lot of things to help people adversely impacted by wel- fare reform but instead it’s salary for consultants for research that simply isn’t needed.”

As part of welfare reform, changes have been housing benefits and council tax support schemes.

According to the tender, the study will “obtain professional, properly defined and costed propositions and solutions for quantitative and qualitative research on the impact of welfare reform on the people of Brighton and Hove”.

The successful bidder for the one year contract will be announced next month.

However, documents seen by The Argus confirm that not all of the findings will be made public, with bidders expected to outline which parts of the study would be “commercially sensitive”.

Labour councillor Anne Meadows said: “Surely this £50,000 would have been better spent on supporting people who are suffering as a result of these policies?”

Dr Tom Scanlon, the city’s director of public health, said: “I can understand how some people might be concerned about this research and feel this money should simply be distributed directly to individuals or community organisations.

“However, there is an expectation that health and local authorities act on the best evidence and where necessary obtain evidence by research.”

He added: “This research will inform how health organisations, the local authority, and indeed the community and voluntary sector can together most effectively help those who need help most.”