Council finds hundreds to pay for staff treasure hunt

Edinburgh City Council HQ
Edinburgh City Council HQ
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City council chiefs have been slated for spending thousands of pounds on team-building exercises – including more than £850 on a treasure hunt for staff.

Department bosses spent more than £6500 over the past year on motivational days out and adventure weekends, despite cuts to services.

The costs include thousands of pounds spent on food and drink and activities, such as climbing, abseiling and kayaking.

Among the outings council tax payers paid for two trips to Lagganlia, the local authority-run outdoor education centre in the Cairngorms, for officers in the transport management team, at a cost of nearly £4000.

One two-day trip in early October to discuss congestion in Edinburgh cost £2500 – and bosses had to pay a £700 cancellation fee to rush back for tram mediation.

The city council defended the spending on development events as a useful way of improving staff performance.

It also pointed out that spending on such events has been cut in recent years.

But local campaigners who have experienced first hand the impact of budget cuts today criticised the spending priorities.

Miraj Ali, who led the unsuccessful campaign to keep the Crags Leisure Centre open, said: “It’s very disappointing when they close key community facilities, then still spend money on silly things like this.

“It’s a shame because a lot of people in the area just don’t go to the gym now, and it was more than just a leisure centre, it was a community space.”

Gavin Corbett, a high- profile campaigner against school cuts, said: “I’ve no problem with the council wanting to build stronger teams that will benefit the community, but they should do this by going into schools or local charities.”

Lothians Conservative MSP Gavin Brown added: “We live in a time where all council services are under pressure and with many under threat.

“Therefore every public pound needs to be spent wisely. The council needs to explain why this money was spent on treasure hunts and team building instead of vital public services.”

Much of the expenditure was from the city development department, which spent £4715 in the past 12 months.

Meanwhile, last October, the e-government department spent £867.50 on a treasure hunt for 30 staff at the events venue 46 York Place.

The corporate finance department spent £553 on a motivational event and a lunch for 19 staff at Pollock Halls in June.

Philip Barr, council head of human resources, said: “Development events can be an important way for helping to improve team performance.

“However, as the figures show, the amount of money spent on these has decreased and remains very small considering the size of the council.”

The city’s Conservative economic development spokesman Jason Rust, said: “Taxpayers are having a tough time and treasure hunts in Edinburgh and visits to the Cairngorms may, without more clarification, appear to be unneccesary or inappropriate.”