BARROW Borough Council has spent £6,000 on staff awards since 2015, according to a new investigation by the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

The pressure group opposes increased taxation and campaigns for lower council tax.

It sent Freedom of Information requests to every council in Cumbria.

The figures reveal that between 2015-18, Barrow Borough Council spent £5,839 on staff awards, equivalent to £1946 every year.

Councils in South Lakeland and Copeland did not spend any on staff awards, according to the figures.

Barrow Council leader Cllr David Pidduck has defended the process of celebrating council staff.

Cllr Pidduck, the Labour member for Hindpool, said the council hosted a reception for staff when they had completed training courses and insisted it was a low-key affair with simple “coffee or orange juice” provided.

Cllr Pidduck said: “Our staff are the most precious asset the council has and we want the best qualified team that we can get.

“Once a year we have a small ceremony in the town hall to recognise those staff who have been successful at training and present them with certificates.

“Some roles, such as an environmental health officer requires seven years of studying and this is simply a way of recognising what staff are doing and gives us an opportunity to sit down and congratulate them.

“They are important to the organisation and to Barrow.”

The biggest spenders in Cumbria, according to the figures, was Allerdale Borough Council which spent £10,400 between 2015-18.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance said local authorities in the UK have spent more than £6 million on award ceremonies since 2015, with the average cost to the taxpayer being £18,064.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Families in the UK who work hard to pay for their council tax will be disappointed to discover that so many local authorities are still spending money on unnecessary extravagances.

“There’s nothing wrong with congratulating staff who work hard or celebrating local businesses, but councils should prioritise the essential services that they are paid to provide."