Job-cuts council holds conference at spa resort

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The Independent Online

A local authority planning hundreds of job cuts organised a £28,000 conference for headteachers at a luxurious spa resort, it emerged today.

Derby City Council put the event on at the Hoar Cross Hall Spa Resort in Staffordshire, where Derby state schools paid up to £295 each to send their headteachers.

Hoar Cross Hall, a stately home surrounded by 100 acres of countryside, includes a luxury spa, golf course and champagne bar.

The conference, held last Thursday and Friday, was hosted at a time when the Liberal Democrat-run council is looking to shed 465 roles.

It also raised council tax this year at an above-inflation rate.

The most expensive option for individual headteachers attending the conference was £295 and the cheapest option was £125, the council confirmed.

The fee was met by individual school budgets and headteachers had the choice whether to go or not.

The estimated final cost of the event was about £28,000 for the 80 or so delegates who attended, a spokesman said.

No spa treatments were included in the conference package.

The TaxPayers' Alliance described the event as "an indulgence that taxpayers and school pupils cannot afford".

Campaign director Mark Wallace said: "By all means the council should hold meetings for headteachers but there's no reason to hold them in a boutique hotel at a cost which is greater than many teachers' salaries.

"Given the state of the economy, the mess in the public finances and the disturbing number of children still struggling at school, there are far higher priorities for taxpayers' money."

But the council said the conference represented value for money.

A spokesman said: "The council used rigid market testing exercise to make sure we got the best value for money and Hoar Cross was the cheapest venue of the three others we considered.

"The conference provides headteachers with a valuable opportunity to concentrate on their own learning and development.

"It is also an opportunity to share good practice, develop new initiatives and continue to implement strategies to secure continued improvement in their pupils' achievement."

The annual conference was planned with, and supported by, the Derby branches of the National Association of Head Teachers and the Association of School and College Leaders.