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Council courses criticised

PUBLISHED: 10:08 01 April 2008 | UPDATED: 20:01 05 July 2010

A council has spent more than £6,000 in the last month sending staff to chocolate-making courses and drumming workshops to improve teamwork and motivation.

A council has spent more than £6,000 in the last month sending staff to chocolate-making courses and drumming workshops to improve teamwork and motivation.

Fifty executives from Suffolk County Council took part in team-building activities, from singing workshops to archery, in March in a bid to enhance staff morale and improve cooperation in the workplace.

The staff members were given a choice of activities last month, including action trips to the Hilltop outdoor education and activity centre in Sheringham which has facilities for cycling, archery, swimming, shooting and assault courses. The two-day placements, taken on March 25-27, cost £197 per person.

Other workers were given the chance to go on single-day courses at the St Nicholas event and conference centre in Ipswich. A dozen staff spent a day learning how to make luxury chocolates at a cost of £150 per person.

Alternatively, they could choose to learn drumming on March 13 for £88 or improve their singing with music and voice workshops on March 17 for £75 each.

Julian Swainson, leader of the council's Labour group, criticised the spending of taxpayers' money on corporate training. He said: “It seems like a silly thing to be spending public money on. While the council is cutting services for the elderly and vulnerable, spending money on luxuries seems to be very hard to justify.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesman defended the courses and said that such activities are used to improve teamwork, staff morale and motivation.

She said: “These activities make up just a small part of the team-building programme, designed to get forward-thinking and motivated staff involved in further improving services.

“The staff taking part were also involved in various business challenges related to their own areas of work, such as highways and social care.”

In July 2007, West Norfolk Council announced that it was going to spend £50,000 on a wellbeing programme, including health and wellbeing workshops and team-building exercises, for all staff after a trial scheme cut short-term absence by 41pc.

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said that the council does not pay to send staff on activity team-building days although individual departments could choose to spend their budget in such a way.

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