South Tyneside Council should stop spending precious tax payers’ cash on Christmas parties and booze, says an angry councillor.
Coun George Elsom is annoyed that £5,336 in council money has so far been spent on 14 community parties and events during the festive period, while the authority is having to make £48m in savings over the next three years resulting in 350 jobs being axed.
The cash is part of a £674,000 environmental and social scheme, shared annually between the five community area forums.
Community groups of all types are eligible to apply for a slice of the cash, to help them fund various activities and schemes throughout the year – including Christmas parties.
Coun Elsom, an Independent for the Cleadon Park ward in South Shields, insists he’s not a festive scrooge, but wishes the funds could be used to keep people in long-term employment – instead of often just for one night of fun.
He said: “It’s an awful lot of money that’s being used.
“This £674,000 would keep about 22 people in full-time employment with an annual wage of £20,000, surely that’s more beneficial?
“I am aware some worthwhile projects are funded by this cash, but it seems there’s also an awful lot which aren’t. I am not saying these groups should never be given any help, but you often find the same ones apply, year after year, and I don’t think it’s fair.”
The disgruntled councillor complained in December 2011, when Harton Moor Residents’ Association in South Shields was awarded almost £1,000 to part fund a Christmas shopping trip to Leeds and a party.
A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “All grants are awarded at the discretion of each community area forum committee.
“The majority of the funds allocated for Christmas celebrations are given to schemes that accommodate for older and vulnerable people. The projects provide a valuable service as some of the people who attend don’t have any families, and this is their only chance to celebrate Christmas.”