Belfast Telegraph

Belfast City Council ends lavish staff away days

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Spending on away days for Belfast City Council staff has been slashed from almost £30,000 to zero, it can be revealed.

City Hall chiefs have saved thousands of pounds over the past four years by scrapping lavish two-day excursions to plush resorts such as the Slieve Donard, Radisson Roe and Galgorm Spa in favour of team-building events on their own properties.

The change of policy on the controversial outings comes as many ratepayers find themselves having to choose between heating their homes or putting food on the table, and is part of an efficiency programme which has saved £12m.

Ronan Cregan, director of finance and resources at Belfast City Council, said: “The cost of away days has fallen from £29,728.33 in 2007/08 to nil in 2010/11. This is a consequence of the council introducing procedures, as part of its efficiency programme, which have saved £12m and which now ensure that any away days are held in Belfast City Council property.

“Away days have been used by the council as a mechanism to engage senior management with the business planning of the organisation.This helps to ensure a high level of buy-in and involvement from staff and ensures the operational alignment to corporate priorities.”

In previous years the council forked out £4,542.83 taking 31 delegates on a team-building exercise at the Radisson Roe Golf Resort outside Limavady.

In 2008 £2,880 went on providing accommodation and lunch for 18 employees at the five-star Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle, Co Down.

And in 2009 a total of £1,500 was spent on room hire, catering and a £30 flip chart at The Mount Business and Conference centre in east Belfast.

Ironically, around £330 of taxpayers’ money was also used to host a ‘planning day’ for a new tourism, culture and arts unit to discuss efficiencies at the Hilton Hotel — which is just a short walk from Belfast City Hall.

During the last (2010/11) financial year, however, there was no such extravagant spending.

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