Questions over council social work staff party

COST-CUTTING council chiefs want to spend £13,000 on a staff party. The Big Thank You event at the Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries takes place at the end of September for the social work department.

But the “celebration” has raised eyebrows with those who are angry at social services for introducing charges for disabled blue badges – in a bid to raise £70,000 to ease the local authority budget.

The council says the event will build “the competence and confidence” of staff.

According to a flyer for it, The Big Thank You is a “local celebration thanking people for making a difference, both big and small, to service users in our region”.

Staff are being asked to nominate colleagues for a range of awards which will be dished out on the day.

The flyer adds: “Finalists, invited guests and friends will be treated to a fabulous lunch and entertainment during which the presentations will be made.”

The day will also feature entertainment from a local radio DJ as well as award-winning comedian Francesca Martinez who has toured the world with sell-out performances.

When told about the party yesterday, Heather Hall, development manager for the region’s Coalition of Disabled People who has been campaigning against the blue badge charges, said: “I think in this age of austerity and spending cuts it should be questioned whether this spending is necessary. £13,000 would pay for a lot of blue badges.

“There will be blue badge holders raising eyebrows at this. Now that the acts have been booked it is probably a bit late to scale it down. I’d be interested to know what disabled people think about this and I’d ask them to call our offices on 01387 257770.”

A spokesman for the council said: “The aim of The Big Thank You is to celebrate Dumfries and Galloway as a community and to build confidence and competence in social work services.

“Examples of good practice will be used for staff training and development. The overall budget for this project is £13,000. The council is currently pursuing sponsorship from a range of partners and other sources.”

Meanwhile, a trade union has hit out at the council for agreeing to take on a deputy chief executive at a cost of £140,000-a-year in the first year and £120,000 annually thereafter.

A spokesman for UNISON said they were “dumbfounded” by the decision.

She said: “UNISON is consulting with management following a decision by the council administration to cut cleaning services in council properties down to three days.

“This is just the start of the effects of efficiency savings on front line posts.

“At the same time our employers have approved an assistant chief executive post for the council.

“What makes this all the more outrageous is that this is being done to ‘improve performance’ of the council. Is that not the job of the already very well paid senior managers?”