Struggling council criticised for £600,000 complimentary ticket spend amid introduction of monthly bin collections

Original by Public Sector Executive, http://www.publicsectorexecutive.com/Robot-News/struggling-council-crit…-

 

The cash-strapped council which controversially introduced the first monthly bin collections in England and Wales to save money has given away nearly £580,000 in complimentary tickets to events in the last four years.

Over 25,000 were given away by Conwy County Council, and one Conservative assembly member said residents would be surprised at the spending considering the cuts and tax rises facing the area.

Conwy’s cabinet member for economic development, Louise Emery, defended the use of tickets which she says are only used by councillors to spend time networking with businesses to bring them into the county, something which has “proved successful over the years.”

But the council said the complimentary tickets usually have specific purposes, either to disabled customers entitled to a free carers ticket under the Hynt scheme or offered to competitors, contra-deals with local media, and organisers.

Details of the free tickets were revealed in a reply to a freedom of information request (FOI), showing numerous tickets were given for events at the council’s Venue Cymru and the Parc Eirias stadium, which the council said were agreed to or organised by the event provider.

In the past few years, Parc Eirias has hosted several major events including concerts by Sir Elton John, Sir Tom Jones, and under-20 Six Nations rugby matches.

Emery said: “These figures include tickets for carers to accompany a patron with a disability; competition prizes; and many are issued by the event promoter direct.”

She insisted that Conwy’s events team and Venue Cymru worked to specific guidelines as to who should attend an event and why – any councillors or officers in attendance must also have a clearly defined role at the event.

“Any councillors who attend events do so to represent the council, and in my experience, I spend my time networking with businesses to bring them into the county – building such relationships has proved successful over the years.”

In September, Conwy County Council experienced a large public backlash after waste piled up when it introduced monthly bin collections for the first time in England and Wales.

The North Wales council rolled out the scheme following a year-long trial and will save £390,000 annually as well as reportedly increase recycling, but residents complained over piles of waste, rats and fly-tipping following the introduction.

Janet Finch-Saunders, the conservative AM for Aberconwy, commented: “Many residents are already struggling with the imposition of four-weekly bin collections, in efforts to save circa £400,000 per annum.

“This again will raise the eyebrows of many residents who are struggling to make ends meet, given such high levels of council tax increases on an annual basis.”