£6k spent on council ceremonies

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New figures have revealed £6,000 has been spent on award ceremonies hosted or attended by Chorley Council staff.

The sum is almost 14 times that spent by Lancashire County Council, which employs more than 40,000 people and provides services right across the borough.

The news comes after The Taxpayers’ Alliance published a report showing cash-strapped councils across the country spent £1.2m on hosting and attending awards ceremonies during 2010-11.

Chorley’s figure came in at £6,347 of which £4,735 was funded by then chief executive Donna Hall from money she had generated herself.

That budget was used for the internal Chief Executive Awards and £3,900 was spent on prizes, £400 on the venue, £150 on trophies and £285.47 on refreshments.

Public money was used to send staff to the Everything Happens Somewhere 2010 ceremony, the Personnel Today Awards and Best Companies Awards.

A breakdown showed £700 was spent on accommodation for the trips and £182 on travel expenses.

Tickets to the events also cost the council £708 - with the Personnel Today Awards charging £518 alone.

In comparison, neighbouring South Ribble and Preston Council did not spend a penny on awards ceremonies and Lancashire County Council spent £460.

Alistair Bradley, leader of the Chorley Labour Party, condemned the findings.

He said: “We have raised this issue with the council before as we believe they are too focused on winning awards and handing them out than actually meeting the needs of the residents.

“It is illuminating now that this survey has been done to find out exactly how much has been spent when neighbouring councils haven’t spent anything at all.

“We agree that staff should be rewarded, but the ceremony was funded by the chief executive who is an employee of the council and the income was used for internal awards so should be taken into account.”

A spokesman from the Taxpayers’ Alliance said: “With pressure on the budgets of local authorities and council tax having doubled over the past decade, councils need to do all they can to control unnecessary spending and deliver better value for money.

“While councils should look to recognise strong performance by staff, one area of waste that has been anecdotally reported is excessive spending on award ceremonies.”

The revelations come at a time when Chorley Council is attempting to save £4m as part of Government cuts.

Coun Alan Cullens, executive member for partnerships and planning at Chorley Council, said: “The council will only attend award ceremonies at events that are beneficial to the work of the organisation and enable us to learn from best practice.

“To get invited to these events means the council is excellent at what it does and it’s also a way of improving our reputation among our peers, enabling us to become one of the best performing councils in the country.

“The Chief Executive awards is the council’s annual staff awards to recognise the excellent service staff provide to people in Chorley.

“It is paid for wholly from money earned by the chief executive, for example through consultancy at organisations such as Southampton City Council, and does not come out of council taxpayers’ money.”