COUNCIL chiefs have been accused of wasting public money on a team-bonding trip for teaching staff to Center Parcs—less than a week after slashing £2.5 million from their budget for children and young people.
The trip to Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest for 130 staff from the children and young people’s department took place a few days after Rotherham Borough Council announced the huge spending cut.
Fears are already growing about the future of local authority children’s centres, such as Rawmarsh and the Arnold Centre, whose staff attended the event.
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One worker said: “The team-building day was less than a week after the budget was cut by £2.5 million. We’re quite disgruntled about it.”
The council says it was not a day out but a once-a-year working conference paid for by government money, not out of the schools’ budget.
But Carole Maleham, branch secretary of council workers’ union UNISON, said: “No doubt the money came from a specific budget which the council had probably for 12 months, but the message is all wrong.
“They should be looking seriously at the budgets and asking if this is appropriate training. Do they need to go to Center Parcs to build relationships with staff?
“From now on, from what this Government is clearly saying, things like going off on a team-building day at extortionate cost should not be happening.
“We know this money has to be used or the council will lose it, but these sort of things should not be happening. It’s coming up to the six-week holiday and some of that time could have been used to get staff together.
“We’re in it for the kids. People are fearing for their jobs. Nobody knows what’s happening.
“It’s possible that all children’s centres could close under this government who want people to go to private nurseries. They’re taking us back decades.”
A spokeswoman for the council confirmed that a conference for 130 teaching staff from the Rotherham Primary Partnership Initiative was held within the conference facilities at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest site.
She added: “This was booked six months ago and was paid for from a specific government budget and not the local schools budget. The PPI is a government programme where schools work together in small clusters to share good practice.
“Normally, small groups of school staff get together locally but at some point during the year all staff taking part, about 150, need to get together.
“The organisers genuinely tried to find a local venue after their first choice of the Rockingham Professional Development Centre was unavailable.
“It was found that either the number of people was an issue or that any suitable venue was already booked. In addition it was discovered that the Center Parcs venue offered good value for money per head.
“This conference was certainly not a day out. Staff were not there to indulge themselves in the leisure facilities. It was held within the specialist conference centre on site and was very much a working day.
“The second conference for all staff within the Primary Partnership Initiative has already been booked for next year at our first venue of choice, the Rockingham Centre in Rotherham.”
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