Public sector waste

Greenwich council’s Dome hospitality box

When I started this blog I thought that I would come across more stories like this one from Friday’s Daily Mail. I am not a big fan of the Mail but sometimes their waste stories are worth repeating.

When council bosses in Greenwich announced £24 million of budget cuts, local taxpayers thought it would be case of belt-tightening all round.

So it might surprise them to learn that £95,000 of their cash has been spent on a luxury box at the Millennium Dome.

Councillors and staff will have one year’s exclusive use of the 15-seat glassfronted suite at the controversial building in South-East London.

From the comfort of sofas, they will be able to watch concerts by Justin Timberlake, The Rolling Stones, Elton John and Prince.

The lease starts on Saturday – just in time for Sunday’s Bon Jovi concert, which is the first at the arena renamed as the O2.

A council report said the corporate box – one of 96 at the venue – would be used for business meetings and to celebrate the achievements of staff and community groups. But Blair Gibbs, campaign manager of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Pensioners and hardworking families in Greenwich are paying for these corporate perks through their high council taxes and they are right to be disgusted.

‘This sort of self-indulgent and unnecessary spending really does border on corruption. The council officials who think they can use our council taxes to buy themselves VIP perks like this should be named and shamed.’

Spencer Dury, Tory opposition leader on Greenwich Council, said the decision showed a ‘very confused set of priorities’.

‘Can you imagine we are making something like £20 million of cuts and we are now spending £95,000 on a corporate box?’ he said.

‘I can’t see that this is a legitimate use of tax payers’ money.’

Last November the Labour-controlled council started a four-year programme of ‘efficiency savings’. Homes for the elderly were among the facilities threatened with closure in the £24million cull.

A Greenwich council spokesman said it already spent money on corporate hospitality and that some of this cash would be diverted to pay for the box.

He said officials planned to sell back unused seats to recoup some of the cost.

‘The arrangement is for one year and will be reviewed by councillors after nine months before a decision is taken on whether to renew the lease,’ he added.

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