Northern Ireland councils spend 'unnecessary' £600k on awards bashes
COUNCILS in Northern Ireland have spent three times more on award ceremonies in recent years on average than local authorities in Britain.
Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council had the second-highest spend of all 419 councils across Britain and Northern Ireland.
Local authorities in Northern Ireland paid out more than £600,000 on awards ceremonies since 2015 – an average of about £61,000 per council.
The figure is more than three-and-a-half times the £16,844 average spend per council in Britain.
Across the UK, councils spent more than £6 million on award ceremonies between 2015-16 and 2017-18 with an average cost per council of about £18,000.
Councils in England spent £5,142,301 while Scottish local authorities spent £650,215 and in Wales the cost was £203,825.
Derbyshire County Council in England had the largest spend of all the councils with £218,482.81, followed by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council with £162,188.67.
John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance which obtained the figures through freedom of information requests, said councils should prioritise spending on "essential services that they are paid to provide".
"Families in the UK who work hard to pay for their council tax will be disappointed to discover that so many local authorities are still spending money on unnecessary extravagances," he said.
"There's nothing wrong with congratulating staff who work hard or celebrating local businesses, but councils should prioritise the essential services that they are paid to provide.
"It's encouraging to see that so many councils were successful in negotiating sponsorship arrangements to pay for some ceremonies, and all local authorities in the UK should seek to do the same."
Of the councils approached for information, 53 were not included the statistics as they either did not respond, declined to provide information or did not give a full response.
Councils that reported savings from sponsorship had this deducted from their total figure, which in some cases meant no net cost to the public.
Among the councils which did not disclose all of the requested information was Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.
Last year The Irish News revealed Belfast City Council spent more than £15,000 of ratepayers' cash on an internal awards ceremony for its own staff.
The 'recognising excellence awards' in 2017 included a gong for the council's bonfire management team – just weeks before the council launched an investigation into its controversial storage of pallets for loyalist bonfires.
The probe came after it emerged the council had been storing thousands of pallets for loyalist bonfire builders at ratepayers' expense.
Northern Ireland councils' spending on award ceremonies since 2015:
Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council – £162,188.67
Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council – £93,449.78
Belfast City Council – £74,848.28
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council – £81,588
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council – £65,180.96
Mid Ulster District Council – £48,397.05
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council – £44,943.85
Derry City and Strabane District Council – £27,434.88
Ards and North Down Borough Council – £13,544.37
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council – £2,013
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council – Undisclosed