The government spent £1.8 billion on consultants in a 12-month period, according to an analysis of newly released figures.

The newly-published COINS database, which holds spending figures for all government departments, demonstrates a £300 million rise in consultancy expenditure from the previous year, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper.

A substantial portion of governmental consultancy expenditure typically goes towards IT and change programmes, but the COINS figures do not break down spending.

The Department of Health spent the most on external consultants, at £480.4 million, the newspaper noted. It is not known how much of this is attributable to work on the beleaguered £12.7 billion National Programme for IT.

The second largest consultancy expenditure was made by the Department for International Development, at £288.1 million, followed by the Home Office at £194.1 million.

Details of the £1.8 billion expenditure were published a week after the government pledged to cut £1.15 billion from discretionary spending, including consultancy, with “immediate” renegotiation due with suppliers. A further £1.7 billion will be directly cut from “IT programmes, suppliers and property”.

The COINS database contains 24 million entries, is 120 Gigabytes in size, and is presented in a complex format. Basic spreadsheet software cannot open some of the files owing to their size, and much of the data is hard to interpret.

Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, said: "This data is complex, but this is a major step forward and shows we are delivering on our promise to make this government more open and transparent while ensuring we deliver value for money for the taxpayer.”

From July, the government will publish the details on all new IT contracts. The data is being released six months ahead of details of other government agreements, reflecting the attention the new government is placing on the management of large technology-led projects.