Anger over controversial training scheme

COUNTY chiefs have come in for criticism today after refusing to reveal whether they got the cheapest deal available for a controversial psychotherapy training programme.

COUNTY chiefs have come in for criticism today after refusing to reveal whether they got the cheapest deal available for a controversial psychotherapy training programme.

Last year Suffolk County Council splashed out �400,000 on a “leadership development programme” including an element of neuro linguistic programming, a method practiced by famous hypnotist Paul McKenna.

The authority came under fire at the time amid claims the money could have been better spent on services for the people of Suffolk.

Suffolk County Council has now prompted fresh concern after refusing to reveal whether another submitted bid came in below the �400,000 cost of the firm chosen to deliver the contract, Bedfordshire-based Fields of Learning.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said the authority would not be releasing details of bids tabled by firms interested in delivering the programme.

“The costs submitted have been deemed as commercially sensitive information and cannot be issued,” the spokesman said.

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The leadership development programme was commissioned as part of a drive by chief executive Andrea Hill to “increase capacity and performance” at the council.

Mrs Hill was previously chief executive at Bedfordshire County Council when the authority employed the same company - Fields of Learning - to deliver its own training programme.

Andrew Cann, deputy leader of Suffolk County Council's Lib Dem group, said: “At a time when the people of Suffolk are feeling the pinch it is bad enough to be training staff in what appears to me to be psycho-babble.

“To find out now that the county council won't even prove it went for the best deal is shocking.

“We need to know why the taxpayers of Suffolk may be paying for the more expensive option.”

The cost of the training course in Suffolk comes to around �1,000 per person for 400 managers.

Madeline Russell, leader of Bedfordshire County Council, said the cost of their course came to �270,000 over three years with around 300 managers taking part - the equivalent of around �900 per person.

She said: “Fields of Learning was commissioned by the county council to assess what kind of development package senior and middle managers at the council would benefit from and was subsequently asked to deliver the programme, which is called 'Being a Bedfordshire Manager'.”

Should the council come clean on what bids were on the table? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

A COUNCIL report on the issue revealed that the pricey programme was commissioned “as part of the Chief Executive Officer's (Andrea Hill) drive to increase capacity and performance linked to leadership”.

The ongoing �400,000 initiative began in October and is due to run until March.

It involves staff at the authority being taught about leadership, personal resilience and change management.

The course includes the use of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques, described as “communicational psychology” and practiced by hypnotist Paul McKenna.

NLP is claimed to assist people in personal development, creativity enhancement, increased performance, improved communicational skills and accelerated learning.

Suffolk County Council has defended the programme, arguing it is a continuation of normal staff training with the cost being covered by the current budget pot.

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