Flashing the Babs

My boy's Grant Mitchell, not Schapps!

I read a news story the other day which slammed a London Council for spending £42,000 on celebrities to attend their staff awards events and other launches.  The money had been spent over five years and the Council has apparently stopped doing that now they know that money is going to be a bit tight, but the article and many others referenceing it seem to not care, and have stuck the knife right in.

On the one hand I can see the basics of their thought processes.  Councils in theory should do nothing that isn’t about helping its residents and ensuring they are supported as necessary.  The money they spent on celbrities such as Shilpa Korsandi (about £8k) and Barbara Windsor (a whopping £13k alone) might have been spent providing a few more hours for a respite worker, or an extra day trip for some old people.

However, on the other hand I think this is a load of rubbish.

The papers seem to forget that the Council is made up of people.  If you were to mix them up with others in a high street, odds are you wouldn’t recognise most of them, and the few you would pick out would only be giving the game away by sweeping up some rubbish or checking to see if lamp columns were working.  These are people who want to do their bit for the communities they serve, but like any person need to feel a bit valued in their workplace.

I’ll no doubt hear a chorus of “they should be happy they have jobs at all”, or “they should stop wasting my taxes”.  But who reading this hasn’t at some point wanted just that little bit of extra motivation, that incentive to encourage them to push a bit harder and jump a bit higher?  Some incentives come in the manner of pay and bonuses, but that’s not going to work any more; most public sector workers don’t receive bonusses no matter how hard they work or what they acheive, and our pay has either been cut or frozen.

We used to get incentivised otherwise by job security or via good pension plans.  Hang on though, almost 500,000 of us are going to be unemployed fairly soon, and our pension is about as secure as the investment I made in the bank of Zimbabwe a few years ago.

So what else is there to encourage us?  Do we get lauded for our efforts, and rewarded with praise in the public eye?  Do our government remind people regularly that they should feel lucky to have such a motivated and dedicated team of public servants who are quietly and conscienciously working hard to make all of their lives easier?  Erm, no; we get told by the media and by government that we are all lazy, overpaid beuraucrats who are doing non-jobs not very well.

Okay, so £13,000 for the landlady of a fake pub to turn up and give a few awards out might sound like a lot, but I’ll bet that word of that spread around the Council and at least some of those who weren’t nominated for something that year worked even harder the next to strive for a nomination in order to be graced by the presence of another minor celebrity.  Because it’s not the person themselves that is the motivation – it’s the fact that someone famous is there and they are being rewarded for a job exceptionally done.

In the finest words of the British Empire, it’s the principal of the thing.  And I for one would like to see this and other creative ways for staff to be rewarded for their extra efforts, lest we lose the last batch of exceptional talent left in local government.

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5 Comments on “Flashing the Babs”

  1. Squiggler Says:

    Loving the post today!

    Just a little note to say I was one of the very fortunate few who was given a staff award at my local authority. A celebrity (and CEO) gave me this award. Not only did it inspire me, it motivated others around me. From a job of having complaints thrown at you everyday to one where people would come and shake my hand- well let’s just say it’s on my CV!

    I’m not saying that 13k is OK to spend, but I am saying that a little motivation goes a long way. The 90 hour weeks were worth it.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by PublicSectorBloggers, WeLoveLocalGov. WeLoveLocalGov said: Today's post: why paying Barbara Windsor £13,000 to present #Localgov awards might not be a waste of money: http://bit.ly/edMXHR […]

  3. Mark Stanley Says:

    “However, on the other hand I think this is a load of rubbish.”


    What a load of old tosh. For any organisation with a few thousand staff to only spend £42k on 5 years worth of guest speakers is *incredible value*

    I bet £42k doesn’t come close to covering the drinks bill at one News International Christmas party.

  4. Erik Says:

    I couldn’t agree more. This isn’t managers jetting off to Bermuda to study local government, this is raising morale of hard working staff. Well said!
    However my nitpicking gene forces me to ask if you meant to write principal rather than principle in that last paragraph?

  5. […] people being rewarded for their efforts.  More creative ways of this recently highlighted include getting celebrities along to award events, but a simpler marker for rewarding hard workers is to pay them a bit more […]

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