A FURIOUS row over a council’s decision to spend £19,000 on a motivational magician continues to rumble on with opposition members angry that councillors were not consulted.

Liberal Democrats on the Tory-run Cotswold District Council have condemned chief executive David Neudegg’s decision to hire a magician to run motivation classes at a cost of £19,000, despite budget cuts of £1.4m.

Lib Dem group leader Coun Paul Hodgkinson said: “This was a controversial decision that went far beyond mere staff training and the ridicule it has heaped on CDC demonstrates that it was a massive error of judgement by the council.

“Had elected councillors been given a say in this affair they would have immediately anticipated how it would resonate with the public and would have vetoed the programme.” Coun Hodgkinson said he would like to see non-elected officers’ delegated expenditure capped to £5,000.

However, Stephen Holley, the Cotswold branch secretary of Unison, said: “Our members are under increasing pressure to carry out their jobs with fewer resources.

“This often places them under a great deal of stress which can have a negative impact on morale. We therefore welcome any cost-effective measures taken by the council to improve our members well-being whilst at work.”

He confirmed that staff redundancy numbers were minimal because over the years the council has hived off lots of work to the private sector such as housing and waste management.

Since the story first broke two weeks ago in the Cotswold Journal, Magic Circle member Shay McConnon has offered to refund the cost of his two- year Even Better Place to Work programme if the council is not satisfied with the result.

The psychology graduate, author and professional speaker claims to reduce casual sickness absences and lower costs associated with unproductive time.

A CDC spokesman said: “We are very grateful to Mr McConnon for making this refund offer but we do not expect to have to take him up on it.”