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£72,800 cost of Whitehall away-days

Hundreds of Whitehall civil servants were taken on staff away-days at taxpayers' expense, the Government has said.

The team-building sessions at a Premier League football ground, a wetlands centre and in upmarket hotels cost a "staggering" £72,800.

They were organised by Chris Huhne's Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), which sparked outrage last year by cutting solar power subsidies.

A total of 1,800 staff attended 42 "performance improving" and "skills enhancing" days out at venues across Britain.

Shadow energy minister Luciana Berger, who uncovered the figures using Parliamentary questions, said: "It's staggering that the same out-of-touch ministers who are putting thousands of people in the solar industry out of work are shelling out for lavish away-days.

"Ministers need to explain why Decc is spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money paying for private members' clubs, Premiership football stadiums and lavish hotels.

"There was even an away-day to plan for another away-day. It shows David Cameron's claim to 'wage a war on waste' was pure fiction. If this level of spending has been replicated across Government the bill could be well over £1 million."

Ms Berger urged the Prime Minister to "come clean" and publish the details of every department's away-days.

Figures showed Mr Huhne's department spent £1,300 taking 30 workers from the "strategy directorate" to Fulham FC's Craven Cottage ground in south-west London last January; £2,600 on two trips to the Royal Society to discuss "priorities and risks for the year ahead and working better as a team" in September and "a directors' business planning meeting" in November; £7,000 in July 2010 taking 105 workers to the London Wetlands Centre; and £1,200 on a finance team away-day for 35 staff in the run-up to last Christmas.

Energy minister Greg Barker defended the bill, saying: "Away-days are an investment by teams in planning, improving performance or enhancing skills and business relationships. The change of environment and the time spent together without distractions allows teams to focus on their challenges."


From Belfast Telegraph