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Numerous councils blowing taxpayer money on awards dinners


Local councils across the UK have been wasting taxpayers' money after they spent almost £350,000 on sending staff to lavish awards dinners.

An audit has revealed one council sent nearly 50 members of staff to a dinner celebrating its work, with some councils' staff even travelling by plane or first-class train and staying in four-star hotels.

Nottingham City Council, which spent more than £1,200 on this year's MJ Awards ceremony, hosted by former BBC presenter Huw Edwards just before he was suspended, has now declared itself bankrupt despite receiving an award for excellence last year.

It comes after the Taxpayers' Alliance pressure group asked hundreds of councils across the UK to disclose whether they had used the public purse to send staff to the awards which are hosted by business publisher, Hemming Group.

The group received 100 responses from councils which together had spent £347,344 of public money on the ceremonies.

City of Wolverhampton topped the spending having sent 48 employees to dinners at a cost of £13, 404. During 2021, the council paid £1,530 to put staff up in a Hilton hotel and last year £5,590 on tables for 18 staff members.

A spokesman for the council said: '"We have significantly reduced what we spend on these awards, spending just £89 in 2023 thanks to securing sponsorship to fund much of the cost."

The second biggest spender was Isle of Wight Council, which spent £11,600 on the event, spending thousands even when it was held virtually during the Covid pandemic.

A spokesman said: "The Isle of Wight Council has not attended the MJ Awards since 2021. The costs highlighted in the referenced FOI document are of a historic nature and also a one-off expenditure. They do not impact on the current budget-setting process."

In third was Essex County Council, which reached into the public kitty to splash out £11,281 over just two years. Last year, a group of 25 from the council were in attendance and scooped a prize for its health and care services team, while this year seven delegates were in attendance.

A spokesman for the council said: "Being nominated for a national award recognises the excellence of our services and celebrates the hard work and achievements of our employees.

"Last year, a very small number of employees attended the MJ Awards, at a cost which was less than 0.0008 per cent of the council's budget. This year's awards cost just 0.0002 per cent of our budget."

In fourth was Rushcliffe, a small Nottinghamshire borough council, which despite its tiny size spent big paying out £9,597 to send 25 members of staff to this year's event. A spokesman for the council said it felt it was important to recognise the hard work of employees.