Back-slapping awards ceremonies which cost up to £2,000 a table have been paid for by council bosses – and taxpayers are footing the bill.
Bucks County Council splashed out £7,233 to send staff to a string of glitzy bashes, in some cases paying for travel and overnight stays.
And even the council’s beleaguered and cash strapped children’s services department got in on the act. Despite claiming this week that budget pressures contributed to a damning Ofsted report into care for vulnerable children, bosses in the department splashed out £2,000 for a table at the LGC awards, and £875 for a table at the National Social Work Awards, where they picked up a prize for team of the year.
Martin Tett, leader of Bucks County Council, said: “I make absolutely no apologies for entering awards.
“Like many private sector companies, entry to awards is a crucial part of our strategy to increase our influence nationally and improve our ability to represent our residents’ interests.
“We are proud of the work we do and through the award successes we have had this year, it’s clear we are amongst the best performing councils in the country.
“Of course we also attend awards events. Some are free, but whenever there are charges, we try to obtain sponsorship or alternative methods of covering the costs.
“There are other benefits that awards successes have brought us, such as the opportunity to meet with government ministers, sharing best practice with other councils and national and local media coverage. However, the key reason for me is that the independent judging process shows that even in tough times, Bucks County Council delivers nationally recognised high standards.”
Bucks County Council nominated itself for 14 separate awards in the last financial year. These included bids to be crowned the best in the country for emergency planning, and for initiatives for buying in services.
Of all the awards entered three were won by the council, including a nod for fostering work.
Andy Silvester, campaign manager at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “There is no excuse whatsoever for these failings and local residents will be appalled that those who oversaw an ‘inadequate’ department had the cheek to spend taxpayers’ money on awards ceremonies.
“It’s nothing short of a disgrace that so much money has been spent on salaries and perks when social services, perhaps the most important thing any council can do, were failing the most vulnerable in society.”
Aylesbury Vale District Council also paid out £620 for its staff to attend awards ceremonies according to a Freedom of Information request submitted by this newspaper.