AS IF BY MAGIC, the story of Cotswold District Council spending almost £19,000 on a stage magician has been pulled out of the hat once again.

The Taxpayer’s Alliance last week published the Bumper Book of Government Waste, shining a light on extravagant spending by government departments and councils across the country.

The report included Cotswold District Council's £18,980 bill for motivator Shay McConnon to boost staff morale in 2011. Mr McConnon works as a magician and the republication of the story gained further coverage in national outlets at the weekend.

CDC leader Cllr Lynden Stowe (Con, Campden-Vale) has again denied the story is true.

"We actually spent a very small amount of money on staff management and performance training at that time," he said.

"This has helped the council achieve savings of about £3million so far without any detriment to frontline services and culminating in a five per cent cut in council tax this year, the biggest in the country.

"This was achieved through extensive shared working with other councils and more efficient procurement. I have congratulated the staff on their hard work, excellent team working skills and their all round dedication.

"We have never hired anyone to put on magic shows to boost staff morale – end of story."