HAMPSHIRE County Council is spending £500,000 of taxpayers’ money on training courses for managers, despite making the biggest budget cuts in its history.
The total could have paid the annual salaries of 17 qualified social workers, 30 care assistants or 20 Connexions youth advisors.
The county council, which is in the middle of a £100million savings drive, has set aside £500,000, on top of existing training budgets, to teach senior officers new skills. Chief executive Andrew Smith will lead the two-year management training.
The council, which has culled a quarter of its managers, says that the investment is necessary to support its “transformation agenda”. This involves a new way of working, including sharing back office functions with the police and fire service as well as selling services to schools and other councils.
Council leader Councillor Ken Thornber said: “Managers will need to adapt and learn new skills to ensure that the council is able to trade successfully in a competitive public sector market whilst still delivering high-quality services for the residents of Hampshire.”
Cllr Thornber added that the cash won’t be spent on residential courses or conferences, but will involve workshops, on-line tutorials and peer mentoring.
However Christine Melsom, founder of anti-council tax group IsItFair, has slammed the move.
She said: “If the training is in-house, why is it costing so much?
“The most important lesson the council needs to learn is how to save money, not to spend it – but they just don’t get it.
“It’s not their money they are spending – it’s our money.”
James Smith, area organiser for Hampshire Unison, said: “Unison is not against the principle of training, and we hope this is an indication that the county council is beginning to value and invest in staff.
“However, £500,000 does appear to be a vast sum of money to spend on a specific management training need at a time when jobs, pay and services are being cut.”
The council has axed 1,400 posts, with 800 voluntary redundancies and by freezing 600 posts.
Meanwhile, budgets for libraries, museums, Sure Start children’s centres, youth work, rural buses, residential and nursing home care have all been cut.