Council chiefs defend mayor’s £34,000 catering bill

Current Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Ken Stephenson, carrying out his civic duties.
Current Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Ken Stephenson, carrying out his civic duties.

Council chiefs have defended spending £34,000 in a year on mayoral catering costs.

South Tyneside Council’s mayor’s office used the cash to host 61 events held in the mayor’s name since July 2017, which works out at around £2,840 a month, Freedom of Information figures have revealed.

Former Mayor, Coun Olive Punchion.

Former Mayor, Coun Olive Punchion.

The current Mayor Coun Ken Stephenson took over the post from Coun Olive Punchion in May.

However, council bosses say that money is justified to celebrate civic pride.

A South Tyneside Council spokesperson said: “The Civic Party works tirelessly on behalf of all residents to celebrate civic pride, raise South Tyneside’s profile with key decision makers and investors regionally, nationally and internationally, as well as promoting and raising tens of thousands of pounds for good causes.

“Civic events recognise the achievements of the borough’s individuals, schools and other organisations and bring communities together through key public events such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, with guests, veterans and active service personnel invited to enjoy hospitality.”

The civic party works tirelessly on behalf of residents.

Council spokesman

Beacon and Bents Coun Angela Hamilton thinks the amount spent is questionable.

She said: “I would like to know what this money is being spent on and what benefit, if any, it brings for the residents of South Tyneside.

“Almost £3,000 a month seems like a lot to be spending on hospitality when there are people in the borough who are relying on food banks to feed their families.”

Council chiefs also say that many mayoral events are also offset by ticket sales.

The spokesman explained: “The costs of many events are offset by income generated from tickets sales or sponsorship.

“For example, almost a quarter of the money spent on hospitality over the past 12 months was on the annual Civic Ball.

“However these costs were recouped almost entirely through ticket sales. The event, which is open to all, raised more than £4.2k for the Mayor’s Charity.

“Making events as cost neutral as possible has helped us to reduce civic expenditure over recent years and we continue to work hard to reduce costs even further.”