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Archive for January 29th, 2011

Tower Hamlets Council has finally complied with the Government’s demands to publish details of all its payments of more than £500 in the current financial year. You can look for yourself here if you know how to convert raw data into Excel spreadsheets (predictably, the council has made it as difficult as possible by dumping the data in a fairly difficult format to read.)

I’ve not had a chance to have a proper look yet (I can’t wait…), but the Tories are definitely quick out of the traps. For example, group leader Peter Golds has already asked chief executive Kevan Collins why his office paid £900 to the Tower Hamlets Labour party on December 9 for “venue hire”.

And one of his new councillors, Zara Davis, who represents Millwall, has just issued a quiet extraordinary press release. Thanks to a brilliant Freedom of Information request, we learn that one of Britain’s poorest boroughs has been shelling out more than £40,000 booking celebrities to appear at various staff events, including pat-on-the-back award ceremonies.

The response to her request can be seen here.

Here’s the text of her press release:

The payments include £13,000 to Barbara Windsor for her appearance at the 2008 staff awards event, £8,050 to Shappi Khorsandi for attending the 2009 staff awards event, £7,500 to Tanni Grey-Thompson and £4,000 to Esther Rantzen.

After exposing these figures, Cllr Zara Davis commented:

“This is an absolute outrage. Taxpayers will be horrified that Tower Hamlets Council has blown tens of thousands of pounds on celebrities.

“What is even more distressing is that whilst the council fritters away money, Tower Hamlets remains one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. This area lags behind the rest of London, let alone the rest of England when it comes to education, health, employment and housing.  The very fact that the council would blow its money on celebrities rather than invest in vital services just beggars belief.

“The purpose of a council is to deliver the services that matter to residents, and to provide good value for money.  Tower Hamlets has failed miserably on both of these counts.”

The full details are as follows:

DATE CELEBRITY EVENT FEE
Jul-05 Athlete –  Kris Akabusi Support Staff Conference £3,000
Nov-06 Swimmer –  Sharron Davis Annual Staff Awards £6,000
Nov-07 Athlete – Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson Annual Staff Awards £7,500
Nov-08 Actor –  Barbara Windsor Annual Staff Awards £13,000
Jun-09 Businesswoman –  Camila Batmanghelidjh Workforce Development Conference £1,000
Nov-09 Comedian –  Shappi Khorsandi Annual Staff Awards £8,050
Jun-10 Esther Rantzen Children’s Workforce Development Conference £4,000

In my last post here on council spending, Labour questioned Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s proposal to plough an emergency transitional grant from Eric Pickles’s department into a “slush fund” reserve. I would imagine that when Big Eric hears how Tower Hamlets has been spending our cash, he’ll do a Big Daddy drop.

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