The government spent hundreds of millions of pounds on consultants and temporary staff to replace civil servants laid off in the last financial year, it has been claimed.

According to the Cabinet Office, the 17 main government departments paid out £287m in redundancy payments in Whitehall's "revolving door" policy in 2012-13.

The figures, cited by the Times, also show that Whitehall spent an additional £800m on £1,000-a-day consultants and short-term staff to replace those who had been laid off.

The government allegedly spent £506m bringing in specialists to work on projects such as HS2 and the West Coast Main Line railway, and an additional £328m on short-term staff and interim managers to work on the projects.

Three years ago, cabinet office minister Francis Maude banned the use of management consultants as part of a reform to bring down excessive spending

However, the 'big four' consultancy firms - KPMG, PwC, Deloitte and Ernst & Young - are being brought back by the government to finish off projects before the election.

An insider told the Times: "They are determined to get everything done by 2015 and where anything is going wrong they are bringing in consultants.

"It appears Frances Maude's ban has been lifted."

Priti Patel, the Conservative MP for Witham, said: "Ministers need to get a grip on consultancy and temporary staff costs. Paying for these services should be the exception rather than the rule and Whitehall must restructure itself to bring these costs down."

There have been around 70,000 redundancies at Whitehall in the past three years, with some departments losing up to a third of their staff.

The Ministry of Justice made bigger redundancy payments than any other government department in 2012/13, forking out £89m - £22m more than the Department for Work and Pensions.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: "We've already put an end to excessive consultancy spend by establishing stringent controls across government saving, over £1.6 billion in 2011/12 compared to the level of spending in 2009/10.

"Cabinet Office delivers projects across a wide range of high-profile policy areas.

"It is sometimes necessary to recruit for specialist business-critical roles. Such roles are only authorised where the skills are not readily available within civil service and where using temporary labour is better value for taxpayers' money than hiring full-time staff.

"Bringing in procurement, finance and digital expertise plays a crucial part in our determination to strengthen the corporate centre in Whitehall and ensuring that government operates like the best-run businesses."