Councils have spent as much as £1.2 million on award ceremonies such as 'British Parking Awards', the 'International Rose Trials' and 'Loo of the Year' award in the last financial year, according to reports published by the TaxPayer's Alliance (TPA).
Glasgow city council was the most extravagant, spending nearly £83,000 on reception dinners and ceremonies. Gordon Matheson, the council's leader, has been labelled the ‘PinHead of the Month’ by the TPA.
Although some of the award ceremonies recognise individuals and campaigns that support the community such as carers, firefighters and nurses, it was the Rose Trials dinner and reception, which awards the most 'fragrant' and the most ‘meritorious’ rose variety on which Glasgow city council spent the most, at £23,000. Councils often spend money not just on tickets but also on accommodation, travel, DJs and catering.
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: "Awards ceremonies are a chance to recognise the efforts of members of the public and staff for their contribution to the city. They also present excellent opportunities to heighten the city's profile.
"It is sad and somewhat unfortunate that anyone would seek to denigrate the achievements of all these dedicated people. Glasgow City Council is by far the biggest local authority in Scotland, and the total spend on events has to be seen in the context of our annual budget of around £2.5 billion."
Structural Steelwork awards, the British Parking awards, the Kennel Club awards and Rare (Recruitment Advertising Radio Excellence) awards are among some of the stranger ceremonies. Newry and Mourne council spent over £12,000 on the obscure Rare award ceremony. Sponsoring these events are not a compulsory part of local authority spending: many councils did not spend any money on award ceremonies at all.
Moray council attended 20 ceremonies, spending over £10,000 in total. A spokesman for the council said :
“The bulk of the costs attributed to Moray Council are for framed certificates and vouchers gifted to valued staff for long and loyal service to the public and which the council feels should be recognised. While it is accepted that the TaxPayers’ Alliance needs to keep up its profile and contributions flowing in, it is worth noting that the cost to the taxpayers for this FOI [Freedom of Information], sent to all 434 local authorities in the UK, is at the very least £25,000 and likely to be much more.”
Jonathan Isaby, Political Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance defended their research, commenting:
“TheTaxPayers’ Alliance has always believed that key to delivering taxpayer value for money is exposing those in power to public scrutiny by ensuring that there is transparency and openness in how they spend our hard-earned cash."