It has been revealed that almost £45,000 of ratepayers’ money has been spent on award ceremonies by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council over the past three years.

From 2015 to 2018, a total of £44,943.85 was spent on the organising or sponsorship of various award ceremonies across the district, a report by the TaxPayers’ Alliance has revealed.

The figure was later confirmed by the Council, who also provided a breakdown of the total expenditure.

During 2015 to 2016, £9,963.28 was spent on award ceremonies, with the highest amount, £5,300, spent on the Fermanagh and Omagh Sports Forum Sports Awards, of which the Council were organisers. From 2016 to 2017, a total of £15,763.71 was spent, with the Council organised Sports Awards again being the largest expenditure at £8,629. 2017 to 2018 saw the highest total expenditure of public money on award ceremonies by the FODC at £19,216.86.

The money was spent on the sponsorship of four events, including £1,350 to the Fermanagh Herald Business Awards, £1,200 to the Federation of Hotels, £1,250 to the Omagh Business Awards and £4,200 to the Tourism NI Awards.

As organisers, the Council spent £7,210 on the Fermanagh and Omagh Sports Forum Sports Awards, £847.80 on the Young Achievers Awards and £3,159.06 on the Annual Staff Recognition Awards.

When asked by The Impartial Reporter if spending £44,943.85 on awards ceremonies was a good use of public money, a spokesman for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council said: “Fermanagh and Omagh District Council values the positive contribution made by local people and its staff to the overall wellbeing of the district and considers it important that this contribution is celebrated to help promote a sense of pride in our area and its people.”

He continued: “During the year, a number of events are hosted or sponsored to recognise the commitment and achievement of local people through their community, sporting or business endeavours; to celebrate the significant contribution of our young people by recognising their personal achievements, acknowledging them as positive role models for their peers and seeking to encourage them to remain as active citizens in the area; and to acknowledge innovation and best practice in the delivery of Council services.

“It is in this context that expenditure in relation to awards and recognition events is approved by Council with spend made in accordance with the Council’s procurement policy.”

Ulster Unionist Party Councillor Robert Irvine said: “It is important that the Council recognise achievement of residents of the area, which should be done in a responsible way, but not go overboard.”

He added: “Council should focus on all aspects of potential efficiencies and income revenue. Awards Ceremonies, and particularly the cost of such is one such efficiency option that Council should review.

“There are certainly areas in this identified section that Council could trim.

“It is important that where Council have budgets for aspects of work or responsibility that these are managed to that budget or if going over-budget a very good reason is in place.

“Council also need to review what falls into each budget area that would help reduce the vagueness of what can be funded in each area,” said Councilllor Irvine.