North Ayrshire Council has spent over £50,000 entering workplace competitions in the past year.
The figure was revealed in response to a question from Saltcoats & Stevenston Independent councillor Ronnie McNicol.
At a meeting of NAC on September 9th, Cllr McNicol asked the Council’s SNP administration for a detailed list of all awards for which the council had entered or had been nominated since January 2014.
In response, Cllr Ruth Maguire, Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate Support and Welfare Reform, indicated details were only available from November 1st 2014, and provided a list of the awards-contests entered by the council from that date to the present.
Cllr Maguire noted, “While it is great news that the achievements of our staff have been recognised in our run of recent awards, it is also important to recognise the wider benefit of the award process. Entering awards allows council performance to be compared against the best-in-class. They [the awards-contests] provide a measure of where the council is on its journey from ‘Good to Great’. They enable us to learn from others, identify opportunities and deliver better-quality services at lower cost.”
The SNP councillor added, “National awards raise the profile, not just of the council but of North Ayrshire as a whole. They raise awareness that this is a dynamic and forward thinking area to live, work and do business.”
Ronnie McNicol then reminded councillors of North Ayrshire’s position as one of the most-deprived areas in Scotland, and asked Cllr Maguire to provide a breakdown of all costs associated with the council entering awards-contests.
At the time, Ruth Maguire stated that it would not be possible to provide information on the cost of officer time in preparing submissions to enter awards contests, but that she would provide other information requested by Cllr McNicol.
This week a further response was, indeed, provided to the local Independent councillor, which revealed that the total amount paid by North Ayrshire Council to enter awards competitions since November 2014 came to £51,073.
The latest reply also indicated the council had entered 90 awards-contests during the period, giving an average cost per entry of £567.
In addition, the council response to Cllr McNicol said, “Our good to great journey has enjoyed broad cross-party support from elected members for its ambition and far reaching vision to make our Council Great. This support has been vital in successfully driving forward our programme of transformation with pace and vigour.”
The reply continued, “Our staff have been critical in this process. Their relentless pursuit of excellence has allowed us to transform our Council and create an environment which values creativity and innovation and has seen the Council deliver £50m of efficiency savings over the past five years.
“Award success is the natural culmination of the tremendous efforts of our inspired and creative workforce. They [the awards] provide recognition and motivation for our staff and are a necessary investment to allow us to continue to achieve the savings and efficiencies we need to make going forward.”
The breakdown of costs associated with entering awards contests shows North Ayrshire Council paid a total of £9,081 to the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE), a Manchester-based organisation that has a membership comprised of councils from across the UK. APSE has a Scottish ‘region’ with an office located in Hamilton.
In another significant outlay within the period November 2014 to October 2015, North Ayrshire Council paid £8,589 to enter awards-contests run by the Municipal Journal, and £3,381 to the Duke of Gloucester Young Achievers Award.
A further £6,924 was paid to enter awards run by the Local Government Chronicle (LGC). The LGC is part of EMAP, a London-based publisher of business-to-business magazines. In turn, EMAP Publishing is owned by Apax Partners plc. Last year Apax Partners declared assets of $20bn and, in 2010, the company was condemned for “unethical and predatory practices” after it was found to have profited from a ‘leveraged buyout’ of Dutch publishers PCM. Apax acquired PCM, saddled the company with huge debts, then sold it for a profit.
In the period covered by the £51,073 expenditure, North Ayrshire Council won a number of awards, including: Three-Star Level of Excellence at the Scottish Awards for Business Excellence 2015; CoSLA Gold Award – Strong and Sustainable Communities; CoSLA Gold Award – Social Services and Health; APSE Striving for Excellence Award; Investor in People Gold Award; Scottish Property Awards – Town Centre Regeneration Project of the Year; Customer Service Excellence Awards – Housing Services (Concierge Team), Revenue & Benefits, Customer Services; SOCITM 4-Star Rating for Council Website; Food for Life Gold Accreditation – Catering Services.