Sunderland Council leader defends spending £60,000 on awards ceremonies

Coun Graeme Miller has defended the council's spending on awards ceremonies.
Coun Graeme Miller has defended the council's spending on awards ceremonies.

Sunderland City Council leader Coun Graeme Miller has defended the cost of hosting awards ceremonies in recent years.

Since 2017, the authority has invested nearly £60,000 into functions – split between the Star Awards and the North East Contact Centre awards.

Conservative group leader Coun Robert Oliver raised the question of spending on awards ceremonies.

Conservative group leader Coun Robert Oliver raised the question of spending on awards ceremonies.

The figures were revealed at the authority’s last full council meeting of 2018/19 following a question by Conservative group leader Coun Robert Oliver.

But Labour leader Coun Miller has defended the cost – crediting the Star Awards for bringing council teams and employees into the spotlight.

“Organisations who don’t take the time to recognise the efforts of their biggest asset, which is the workforce, are few and far between,” he said.

“The ‘Stars’ have been proven to significantly boost morale within the council, making employees feel valued and encouraging them to continue to make a significant contribution to the city and lives of its residents in the face of considerable change and very challenging conditions for the public sector.”

While the spend on the Star Awards has dropped year on year since 2017, each ceremony has attracted costs in excess of £10,000.

For the last two years, the council has also contracted a third party to host the North East Contact Centre Awards.

Over this period, costs almost doubled –  from £8,486 in 2017 to £14,650 in 2018.

Coun Miller stressed the North East is home to several big names in financial, professional and business services, with a “strong reputation” in shared service centres and business process outsourcing.

He said: “In Sunderland around 15,000 people are employed in this sector, so it’s an important part of the city’s economy.

“It’s also important therefore that we continue to showcase that strength, talent and achievement of the sector and its employees.

“It should be noted that the event company running the awards in 2018 unfortunately went out of business two weeks before the ceremony.

“On a reputation basis, the city council, through ‘Make it Sunderland’, decided to step in and make sure the awards took place.

“We continue to work with the liquidator to recoup all of this expenditure from the assets of this company.”

Councillors also heard attendance at external awards is made at the discretion of each service area.

The prestige of the award, likelihood of the council winning and cost of attendance can be deciding factors for staff attending.

Coun Miller added: ”Given the breadth of services within the council, it is simply not feasible to identify this cost.”

This is how much Sunderland Council has spend on awards ceremonies over the last three years:

Star Awards

2017: £14,142

2018: £10,948

2019: £10,621

North East Contact Centre Awards

2017 – 8,486

2018 – 14,650

Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporting Service