Council criticised for leadership spending

COUNCIL chiefs came under fire last night after agreeing to spend more than �600,000 on leadership courses for managers at a time when public services are facing major cuts.

Essex County Council will shell out �631,850 over the next three years to send 90 managers on a programme run by Judge Business School (JBS) in Cambridge – a cost of more than �7,000 per person.

It is spending the money at a time when local authorities have been told by central government that they need to make significant savings.

Last night, Essex County Council vigorously defended its decision and said the courses, which they have signed up to in previous years, represented value for money.

But Matthew Sinclair, research director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Councils are going to have to get used to tighter budgets as a near doubling over the last decade has more than exhausted the public’s patience with council tax hikes and central government grants are likely to be cut.

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“In that kind of environment, they need to show that they can prioritise and spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on leadership training isn’t the way to do that.

“This decision suggests that the council still haven’t adjusted their habits to the fiscal environment they are now working in; the councillors need to make sure that happens fast.”

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Essex County Council’s cabinet has agreed to send 90 managers on three residential based Leadership Academy Programmes run by JBS - 30 employees a year - to start in the autumn.

There have been 86 participants across the previous three programmes, which cost �667,800 over two years.

Last night, a spokesman for Essex County Council said the courses had been assessed against a variety of others and represented quality and value for money.

He said the price of accommodation and most other expenses is included in the overall cost while spending on travel will be kept tot a kept to a minimum through shared arrangements.

“The purpose of this programme is to build leaders to take us through change and continue to deliver best value services for Essex,” he said. “Equally the programme is designed to build capacity which is transferable in the public sector so we believe this is an excellent investment.”

He said feedback from participants had shown those who took part had benefited in a variety of ways.

He said 95% of previous participants had remained with the council, 44% had moved on to new roles within the organisation and 28% had been promoted.

“The council has shown a significant improvement in senior management capability as identified in the annual staff survey,” he added.

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