Sheffield City Council bosses have defended the authority’s spending of more than £1.1m on hospitality over five years after opposition politicians sought to “expose” the costs.
Coun Olivia Blake, the Labour-run council’s cabinet member for finance, has today accused Liberal Democrat former authority leader Coun Paul Scriven of misinterpreting the figures “for his own political gain”.
Lord Scriven asked in December for the total cost of flights, hotels, internal and external hospitality over five years.
The documents show that hotel accommodation for council staff and members between 2013/14 and 2018/19 has cost £398,010.32. Hospitality during the same period has cost more than £607,900, while external hospitality totted up at £68,129. The total cost of flights was £84,404.17.
Lord Scriven, who represents Ecclesall, said: “We know local budgets are tight and council tax has risen while services for some of our most vulnerable are being cut. The Labour council clearly are not on top of basic spending.”
He added: “When I was leader of Sheffield City Council, we cut back on spending like this to protect vital services people rely on.”
But the council said that between 2008 and 2011, during the Liberal Democrats’ control of the council, spending on hospitality was nearly as much, at £1,108,936.
Coun Blake said: “Sheffield is one of the UK’s major cities but there are many other big cities competing for investment. Opportunities for city growth are global not local and we can either sit and wait for them to come to us or go and seek them out.
“This year alone we have seen the successes of this approach as Boeing, Maclaren and Pretty Little Thing have all taken residence in the city, their investment far outweighing the money that has been spent on travel and hospitality over the last five years, not to mention the number of jobs this has created and the increased talent that our city is attracting.”
She said that where travel and hospitality costs were not funded by European Union third parties, they were subject to procurement and expenditure authorisation policies to ensure that journeys “must be for reasons that benefit the city and its residents”.
The deputy leader gave an example of about 50 people being served tea and coffee, plus a piece of cake, for a ceremony honouring women in the city last April.
Coun Blake added: “Lord Scriven has misinterpreted the data for his own political gain, he understands that a city must invest in order to grow and this criticism of the council’s financial management over the last five years demonstrates that he is stuck in Sheffield’s past, rather than thinking about our future.”
She said that the council’s financial management during nine years of austerity and £460m of savings had been “stringent and carefully planned”.