COUNCIL staff are under fire - after 23 enjoyed a night out in Brighton to pick up two awards.
The Revenues and Benefits staff were treated to a lavish black-tie dinner at a four-star hotel facing the famous seafront.
But the trip has been condemned after it was revealed six Kirklees Council staff were already in the south coast resort attending a four-day conference.
One critic labelled it a "disgusting" waste of taxpayers' money and said the £8,000 bill could have been used for better purposes.
But the council, which had won a national award, has defended the trip and insisted it was not a junket.
How many council workers does it takes to collect an award?
TWENTY-THREE Kirklees Council staff travelled to Brighton for a black tie awards ceremony.
Now the trip has been labelled a waste of taxpayers' money.
One disgruntled council employee claimed the trip to Brighton by Revenue and Benefits staff cost £8,000.
"This is a disgraceful waste of taxpayers' money," he said.
Six employees were in Brighton on a three-day conference.
The other 17 went down for an overnight stay.
But a council spokeswoman defended the trip to the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation (IRRV) ceremony.
She said: "Some 23 people from Revenues and Benefits and Kirklees Direct attended.
"Other councils attending the ceremony had taken similar numbers of staff to attend."
IRRV award co-ordinator Gary Watson told the Examiner that nominated councils brought an average of 12 people, with northern local authorities tending to bring fewer.
Kirklees Revenues and Benefits won the Customer Care award and came second in the Revenues Team of the Year.
Clr David Hall, cabinet member responsible for the Revenues and Benefits service, paid tribute.
He said: "Our achievements at these awards demonstrate that we are a progressive service willing to introduce new initiatives and improvements and determined to achieve the best possible service for our customers.
"Getting through to the finals with two teams has been a real morale booster for the whole service."
But the employee does not think this success justifies such a large attendance, saying: "Why on earth do 23 employees need to go to Brighton to collect an award?"
And the employee claimed the application itself had proved counter productive.
He said: "There is a backlog of 3,000 items due to the number of staff who were working on the award application."
But the council spokeswoman said: "I am very sorry that one member of staff doesn't seem to appreciate the value of what attending and winning these national awards mean to our service."
The ceremony was the culmination of the IRRV conference which ran from Tuesday to Friday last week at the four-star Hilton Metropole Hotel in Brighton.
But the council spokeswoman stressed that this was not a junket.
She said: "We had two managers at the conference and five staff to cover two stands each day.
"Staff did not stay in the conference hotel, as we chose cheaper accommodation, and some of them shared rooms to save on costs.
"No member of staff will be claiming for drinks during the visit."
The allegation comes as the council considers a new reward scheme for its workers.
The Joint Cabinet/Personnel Committee will decide today whether to fund the Reward and Celebrate scheme.
Council workers who provide outstanding customer service or new ways of making savings could be rewarded with cash, days off or tickets to sporting events.