Mansfield District Council has been criticised after splashing out more than half its entertainment budget on an award ceremony for local Paralympians.
Champion swimmers Ollie Hynds and Charlotte Henshaw, who both picked up medals at Rio 2016, were awarded the Freedom of Mansfield award at a special event at the Civic Quarter, where supporters and councillors were treated to food and sparkingling wine to honour the swimmers, and their coach Glenn Smith.
An FOI request to the council has revealed that out of their £11,000 annual budget, party planners spent £6,261 on the event on November 11.
In addition to £2,556 on food alone, more than £900 was spent on wine and another £950 on live music. The bill for flowers came to £346 and just under £200 was splashed out on balloons for the invite-only event.
By contrast, £1,300 was spent on the Christmas Lights Switch-on the following week.
Opposition councillor Sonya Ward, Labour, said during unprecedented budget cuts ‘it’s a bad time to be splashing out’.
She said: “It’s brilliant to celebrate these achievements and we need to mark the efforts of people in Mansfield, but it shouldn’t be extravagant so I question the ethics of spending a thousand pounds on wine at a time when we’re under unprecedented budget pressures. It doesn’t sit quite comfortably with me – it wouldn’t have been out the question for attendees to pay for their own drinks.
“There is a budget which is set aside for these events, and £11,000 seems a lot to me, so we ought to be looking at this while we’re asking service managers to reduce costs all the time.”
Mansfield District Council’s Executive Mayor Kate Allsop said: “Freedom of the Mansfield district is the highest honour the town can give to its citizens and has been awarded on only a few occasions since 1974. The efforts made in Rio by Paralympians Ollie Hynd, Charlotte Henshaw and their coach Glenn Smith are a massive achievement and the trio’s hard work deserves to be recognised, which we did by hosting a significant celebration. The district celebrated in the same way when Rebecca Adlington won her gold medals.
“The event was attended by the Paralympians’ friends and family plus carefully selected guests who have contributed positively to their success over the years. All councillors were invited and there was cross party representation at the event.
“It is important that we celebrate pride in Mansfield and congratulate those who work hard and put Mansfield on the map.”
Our Facebook followers have shared their thoughts on the story
In response to the FOI results, Darren Hunt said: “I think a similar amount spent on a public event would have attracted many more people to Mansfield with the added benefit of a financial boost for town centre businesses.”
Joanne Gilbert posted: “They should have held an event for everyone to attend, nice to know I’m paying for their food and wine with my council tax.
Debra Barlow said while “considering closing Meden Sports Centre they shell out money like this to honour swimmers.”
Chris Rogers said: “Disgusting! There are vital services needing money and they waste our hard -earned money on parties!”
Viv Hallam compared the party to a previous decision to stop Mansfield Soup Kitchen operating in the market place. “You ought to be proud of yourselves,” she added.
Dawn Clipston added: “Imagine what £11,000 could have done for our homeless.”