Council condemned for spending thousands on staff jollies

Edinburgh city council spent £870 on a treasure hunt for staff

STAFF at Edinburgh Council blew £6,500 on team-building sessions despite the mounting trams fiasco, it emerged today.

Officials signed up for a £2,500 trip to an outdoor centre only to have to fork out a big cancelation fee when they summoned back for tram talks.

On another occasion, workers were treated to a treasure hunt which cost £850.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, were condemned today by taxpayers’ groups.

The council has attracted UK-wide criticism for spending almost £1bn on a tram system that is years late and much less extensive than promised.

But that has not stopped city hall chiefs approving several team-building exercises at public expense.

In October this year, staff were booked on a two-day trip to the Lagganlia outdoor centre in the Cairngorms, costing £2,500.

But the trip had to be abandoned – incurring a £700 cancelation charge – after it clashed with mediation talks over the trams fiasco.

The same month, the e-government department organised a £867.50 Treasure Hunt for 30 council staff at a city venue.

Figures show department bosses spent thousands of pounds indulging staff with food and drinks and organising motivational days out throughout the year.

Much of the expenditure came from the city’s development department, which spent £4715 in just 12 months.
Campaigners battling to save threatened facilities in the city today hit out at the costs and criticised the council for inappropriate spending.

The city’s Conservative spokesman on economic development , Jason Rust, said: “Taxpayers are having a tough time and treasure hunts in Edinburghand visits to the Cairngorms may, without more clarification, appear to be unnecessary, or inappropriate.”

Miraj Ali, who led the unsuccessful campaign to keep a city leisure centre open, said: “It’s very disappointing when they close key community facilities, then still spend money on silly things like this.

“It’s a shame because a lot of people in the area just don’t go to the gym now, and it was more than a leisure centre, it was a community space.”

Gavin Corbett, a high-profile campaigner against school cuts, said: “I’ve no problem with the council wanting to build stronger teams that will benefit the community, but they should do this by going into schools or local charities.”
Lothians Conservative MSP, Gavin Brown, added: “We live in a time where all council services are under pressure and with many under threat.

“Therefore every public pound needs to be spent wisely. The council needs to explain why this money was spent on treasure hunts and team building instead of vital public services.”

Edinburgh Council has defended its spending, pointing out it is lower than in recent years.

Philip Barr council head of human resources said: “Development events can be an important way for helping to improve team performance.

“However, as the figures show, the amount of money spent on these has decreased and remains very small considering the size of the council.”