An investigation by the TaxPayers’ Alliance revealed that local authorities spent £6.6million on ceremonies in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18, with the average cost to the taxpayer per council being £18,064.
The organisation sent Freedom of Information requests to 419 councils across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, receiving proper responses from 366 of them. Where there were savings through sponsorship, these have been deducted from the figures.
The figures show that Northumberland County Council spent £56,366 on awards ceremonies over the three-year period, which meant it was comfortably within the top 10 per cent of authorities that spent the most.
However, it did not have the highest expenditure in the North East, with Gateshead hitting the national top 10 with its three-year bill of £117,725.
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Elsewhere in the North East, North Tyneside spent £34,414, Newcastle’s bill was £5,951 and South Tyneside didn’t spend anything. Durham and Sunderland both refused to respond, according to the figures provided.
A Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said: “A variety of awards ceremonies take place each year, which celebrate the outstanding achievements of our communities, our young and adult learners, as well as our staff.
“Wherever possible, we seek outside sponsorship or funding towards covering event costs.”
Nationally, Derbyshire County Council spent the most on award ceremonies within the time period – £218,483. This was almost 12 times the national average and £14,658 more than all of the Welsh councils combined.
At the other end of the scale, 65 councils spent nothing on award ceremonies. in many cases due to successful sponsorship arrangements.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Families in the UK who work hard to pay for their council tax will be disappointed to discover that so many local authorities are still spending money on unnecessary extravagances.
“There’s nothing wrong with congratulating staff who work hard or celebrating local businesses, but councils should prioritise the essential services that they are paid to provide.
“It’s encouraging to see that so many councils were successful in negotiating sponsorship arrangements to pay for some ceremonies and all local authorities in the UK should seek to do the same.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service