SWINDON Council forked out more than £4,000 to send councillors on media training courses in the past three years.
According to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, from January 2011 to December 2013 the council spent £4,140 on making councillors media savvy, including current cabinet members Claire Ellis and Richard Hurley and mayor Nick Martin.
Defending the expense to taxpayers in order to provide the media training, Coun Martin, a member of the Conservative party and ward councillor for Shaw, said: “Particularly as mayor I have had a lot of dealings with the Adver and with the radio, and being in a public profession I think it’s important to have training in order to be able to know what the person on the other end of the microphone wants.”
The sessions, which were delivered in-house, involved a mock radio and newspaper interview and took place on September 6, 2011, September 9, 2011, Septem-ber 4, 2012 and September 17, 2012.
Each session cost £1,035, regardless of how many people attended. Only six members were allowed to attend per session, meaning the cost for the training per head was at least £172.50.
This doubled to £345 on September 6, 2011 when only three members, including Andrew Bennett, Richard Hurley, and the Labour Party’s parliamentary candidate for north Swindon, Mark Dempsey attended.
Coun Dempsey, the ward councillor for Walcot and Park North, declined to comment.
Leader of the Council, David Renard, was one of the councillors who did not receive media training in the past three years, but he said it was important that councillors received the training in order to know how best to get their messages across.
“Councillors need training in a whole range of subjects and we have a very comprehensive programme for councillors and part of what is offered is training in how to talk to the media,” he said.