£140,000 council chief goes on £5,000 course to protect herself against 'abrasions of the world'

Daily Mail, UK/August 22, 2008

A town hall boss is spending £5,000 of taxpayers money to go on a self-awareness training course in Germany and Florida to teach her to 'like herself'.

Dr Allison Fraser, who has been in charge of Sandwell Council in the West Midlands over the last two years, will attend courses in the Avatar Professional Course to learn how to become 'more likeable'.

Chief Executive Dr Fraser - who has an annual salary package of £140,000 - has already spent a week in Willingen, Germany earlier this month to take part in the first section of her course and will resume it in Orlando, Florida in October.

In Florida, she will discover if she can 'like herself' at the Rosen Plaza Hotel at the resort's International Drive.

The 'Pro course literature' even suggests she could 'stroll down International Drive while doing your course exercises'.

Dr Francis will then be able to 'experience a recovery of enthusiasm and inspiration for your own personal vision and for the World'.

Yesterday the critics of the council leader claimed she had herself 'lost touch' by attending the course which has links to the controversial Church of Scientology.

The Avatar website claims their course teaches people how to become 'more real, authentic' and will even 'protect themselves against the abrasions of the world' and 'gain a connection with the undefined self'.

The course even claims to teach students how to 'obtain the keys to successfully operate in the world'.

The Avatar was established by Harry Palmer, a former missionary in the controversial Church of Scientology and it is further claimed he devised the Avatar theory during a prolonged session in a flotation tank.

The Avatar website yesterday contained some of Mr Palmer's words of wisdom including the statement: 'There seems to be some kind of evolution going on in consciousness. Some sort of collective adaptation that we're developing or awakening to wisdom.'

Yesterday Dr Fraser was unavailable for comment on the course as she looked forward to gaining further ' wisdom' by travelling to Orlando and International Drive described in the Avatar brochure as one of the ' most dynamic vacation destinations' in the world.

However, Tony Mallam, chairman of Sandwell's Sons of Rest clubs, which faces closure through budget cuts, stormed: 'It beggars belief. I think people have lost touch with the simple things.

'She should be concentrating on Sandwell, not flying round the world.'

In America, campaigners against Mr Palmer's radical outlook have set up an on-line petition to get the Avatar Course investigated, describing it as a 'quasi-religious cult with roots in Scientology.'

But Sandwell Council leader Bill Thomas claimed in a statement that the course was 'good value for money' and he added:

'It is certainly very important that she has access to these training courses. This is considered to be one of the best course around.

'The course was approved by the Labour group and the other main political parties.'

He added that Dr Fraser has 'ultimate responsibility' for a budget of £1billion a year and the course would help her 'gain even more experience'.

In June this year, Sandwell Council offered the jobless in the area free lessons in 'personal grooming and stress management' in a move designed to help them get off the dole queue.

Critics described the five week 'Look Good, Feel Good' course as 'ridiculous' after it was launched by the council's Adult and Family Learning Service.

Meanwhile, news of the council chief's self awareness course trip comes after it emerged that another Midlands council has spent almost £1million on spin doctors each year.

Dudley Council spent £945,000 on public relations in the last financial year by employing 18 full-time Press officers.

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