Walsall Council Paid Staff to Play with Lego

By Holly Brockwell on at

We've never had any particular desire to move to Walsall in the West Midlands, but after hearing about their latest training programme for local councillors, we're ready to pack up and go.

Walsall Council recently arranged a two-hour workshop that involved, according to the local Labour Group, having to "sit around for two hours, playing with Lego."

I mean, that sounds pretty great to us, but we can see why some people might think otherwise – especially considering councillors were being paid to be there. As Labour councillor Matt Ward puts it, "We had six or seven officers there, on decent money, all stood there for two hours talking about resilient communities when we should be actually out there doing the work. [...] If you went anywhere else and said ‘let’s talk about communities and play with Lego’, they’d laugh at you."

There were around 30 councillors at the session in total, as part of the Walsall Proud Programme, which is run by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and will cost £10m. According to Birmingham Live, the aim is "to transform the way the council works and bring in three times as many savings in the coming years."

This particular workshop, however, seems to have missed the mark. Ward continues, "It was beyond belief. The whole session was patronising. If the start of it is us playing with Lego, do we get Scalextric next or Meccano? You couldn’t make it up!"

Walsall Council leader Mike Bird, meanwhile, said the workshop was actually totes useful and the Lego was only a single brick in a larger wall (but you probably wouldn't understand that analogy):

"It’s disappointing that the Labour group have taken to social media to try to decry what was a real serious message but then sometimes, when you’ve got children in the kindergarten, you have to give them the toys to play with.

It was a one-off item in the workshop about what can you build. If you understand the whole concept of the meeting, it becomes very relevant.

But sadly there are always those who want to throw grenades into what is and what will be a very cohesive way of working with our community.

We have to accept the fact it is childish acts from childish people."

That's right, someone who thinks giving paid staff who've been doing their jobs for years – decades in some cases – Lego to play with in a serious meeting has opted to call said staff "childish." Brilliant.

Bird continues,

"Many facilitators use different tools to get their point across and this facilitator had various amounts of Lego bricks and figures on the table.

The analogy was that bricks can be built into something that is more meaningful. It was just a tool that he used as an analogy to say what can look like something simple can be built into something far better."

I mean, that's definitely a message that requires making adults play with actual Lego rather than just, you know, making a fleeting analogy in a presentation. How will they understand the idea that small things make bigger things if they haven't actually built a tiny plastic car?

Labour councillors have threatened to boycott future sessions if they involve playing with toys. We will gladly take their places. [Birmingham Live]