A COUNCIL has given out almost £200,000 in vouchers as a staff incentive. 

An investigation by the TaxPayers' Alliance found that Hampshire County Council provided almost £200,000 of rewards vouchers to staff, despite warning recently that it was close to bankruptcy.

A total of 1,040 vouchers have been given out since 2019, provided by the company Edenred, with vouchers worth between £10 and £200.

It found that in 2019/20 315 vouchers were given out, worth a total of £57,000, in 2020/21 232 vouchers were given out, worth a total of £43,700, in 2021/22 277 vouchers were given out, worth a total of £55,400, and in 2022/23 to date, 216 vouchers were given out, worth a total of £41,220. 

The vouchers are called "Compliments Select e-code" which can be used at a wide range of stores including Argos, Clarks, Goldsmiths, Robert Dyas, Waterstones and a range of hotel chains including Ibis, Novotel and Mercure

According to the council, most of the spending comes on vouchers of £200 for service of 25 and 40 years. 

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council, said: “We value the vital contribution of our staff who work to deliver important local services to residents, including to the most vulnerable people in Hampshire’s communities.

"Vouchers are occasionally presented to employees to mark their exceptional commitment but most are given out to mark 25 and 40 years of long service.

"This is one way we seek to retain talented and experienced employees, which also keeps recruitment costs lower. These figures cover the activities of the county council, which is the third largest shire council in the country, serving 1.4 million residents and with a gross budget of £2.4bn.”

They said the awards range from £10 or £20 for outstanding contributions – with £200 given out for 25 and 40-year long-service awards. The scheme covers all 34,000 Hampshire County Council employees.

In November council leader Rob Humby warned of a looming financial crisis which, without support, could bring the authority to bankruptcy in a year.

The TaxPayers' Alliance said the council should review its spending. 

Elliot Keck, investigations campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance said: "Residents will be questioning the sustainability of this bonus scheme.

"While rewarding long-standing staff is a noble principle, the council's financial predicament suggests it is also unaffordable.

"The council should review this spending to ensure it doesn't break the bank."