Judging by some of the comments my piece yesterday about Freedom of Information came across as more negative than I intended it too. This morning comes news of another magnificent use of FOI requests by the Taxpayers Alliance. They asked councils how much they spent hosting and attending award ceremonies last year. From those that replied the total came to £1.2 million – the true figure will certainly be much higher.
After the jollity of wining and dining at the Council Taxpayers expense at orgies of self congratulation comes the hangover of a FOI request from the TPA. Combined with spending transparency for items over £500 these enquiries will have an impact. Councils that splash out on this spending are held to account. I am sure this has prompted greater restraint. Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to receive a Freedom of Information request from the Taxpayers Alliance in a fortnight it concentrates the mind wonderfully.
Among the ceremonies attended were the Everything Happens Somewhere Awards 2010; Loo of the Year; the Sports Turf and Landscaping Awards; the British Parking Awards; the Magic Of Motown and the Structural Steelwork Awards.
Glasgow City Council spent the most hosting and attending award ceremonies totalling almost £83,000. Fife Council attended and hosted the most ceremonies with a total of 34. At least 115 councils spent no money on hosting or attending award ceremonies. 15 councils attended the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Awards at a total cost of £5,000.
The breakdown for individual councils is here.
Matthew Sinclair, Director of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said:
"Taxpayers will be staggered that councils facing significant pressure on their finances are spending thousands of pounds on back-patting award ceremonies. Recognising staff who have done well doesn’t require this kind of extravagant spending. Some authorities have shown that they understand award ceremonies aren’t the right priority for money that is supposed to be spent on frontline services, but others need a reality check. Many items of spending like this are a small share of council’s total budgets but controlling these kinds of costs can add up to a better deal for families."