Published: 10:00, 22 May 2014
More than £1,200 of taxpayers’ money was spent on sending a group of traffic wardens to a wild animal park for the day... to muck out cages.
Touted as a training exercise, the day-long session saw the enforcement officers taking part in a range of "practical building exercises", effectively becoming zoo keepers.
This included cleaning out cages, building shelters and beds for the animals and clearing river beds.
Ashford Borough Council has confirmed a team of 18 civil enforcement officers and parking administratives were taken to Port Lympne last Wednesday, on a staff training session.
They claim the trip – which cost a total of £1,260 – allowed the staff to develop skills, support one another and broaden their knowledge.
They have also defended the amount that was spent, insisting it was "good value for money", equating to £70 per person.
The purpose of the visit, the council added, was to train colleagues, as well as boost morale within the team, saying that it is often a difficult department to recruit for.
The council maintained the park visit was not a perk or a reward for the members of staff.
It is understood that Port Lympne, near Hythe, was chosen because of the type of training programme that it offers.
An Ashford council spokesperson said: “The council strongly believes in investing in training and development for our employees to enable our staff to develop their skills, broaden their knowledge and provide a high-quality service for our residents.
“The purpose of the team development day was to provide training and develop skills that make the team more effective.
“It also helped to ensure new members of the team understand and remain committed to their role, support each other and continue to be a valuable asset to the council."
It's not the first time the council has been caught up in controversy over team-building days.
In 2011, Ashford Borough Council was criticised after paying £700 for 10 members of staff to go on a team-building exercise day to Go Ape, in Goudhurst.
The housing department workers spent three hours at the adventure park which invites people to swing through trees and go in search of their “inner Tarzan”.
In a separate move earlier this year, Gravesham council spent £15,000 taking nine councillors and staff members to Florida to research the new theme park planned for Swanscombe.
The group visited Disney World, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando.
The authority defending the huge bill, paid for by the taxpayer, by claiming it will be recouped if and when the planning application for the £2 billion scheme is submitted.
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