If a Council is providing a new service – a new library or swimming pool perhaps, or a new recycling initiative – it makes sense to publicise it as much as possible in order for residents to be able to take advantage of it. Having events to ensure staff are motivated and realise they are appreciated can also be reasonable. But should Councils be paying thousands of pounds for celebrity appearances?
One would have thought that there were so many celebrities around that every district would have a local smattering of them. Wouldn't it be possible to find one with enough community spirit to appear for free? After all the publicity doesn't so the celebrity any harm either. Wouldn't it count for more having a local, unpaid celebrity – than one from outside pitching up because they had been paid?
Anyway, The Mirror has carried out some Freedom of Information requests looking at the fees paid. They have discovered that Newham Council paid Barbara Windsor £6,000 to present an awards ceremony to staff. Nottingham Council has paid £15,800 for four celebrities – including Sir Clive Woodward to give a "motivational" speech to staff. Haringey paid Kriss Akabusi to give staff a morale boosting talk. Tewkesbury Council paid TV chef James Martin £15,000 to appear at a food festival.
One can imagine some of the nonsense that will be talked at such events: "You are all really special. You are all doing the most amazing job…" Some are, some aren't – anyway how would the hired celeb know. Far better to spend the money on performance related pay to reward those staff who really are doing an amazing job.
Well done to Conservative-run Gravesham Council who persuaded Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman to come and talk and dance for free at an event to promote fitness.