Brent Council slammed for spending £98k on civic centre event while facing £20m of cuts

PUBLISHED: 11:42 10 October 2013 | UPDATED: 11:42 10 October 2013

21 young ambassadors join Cllr Muhammed Butt and Bobby Thomas to declare the civic centre open (Pic credit: Helen Yates)

21 young ambassadors join Cllr Muhammed Butt and Bobby Thomas to declare the civic centre open (Pic credit: Helen Yates)

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Brent Council has come under fire for spending £98,000 on an event to mark the opening of its new headquarters while planning to make more than £20million of cuts next year.

The costs for the opening ceremony at their £90m Civic Centre in Wembley on Sunday was revealed to Cllr Paul Lorber after he requested the figures from Christine Gilbert, the council’s interim chief executive.

In an email she disclosed the authority spent £50,000 on performances and activities while £40,000 was spent on staging, production and health and safety costs.

An estimated £63,550 of the bill was met by council taxpayers.

Cllr Muhammed Butt joins hundreds of people for mass Zumba (Pic credit: Helen Yates)Cllr Muhammed Butt joins hundreds of people for mass Zumba (Pic credit: Helen Yates)

A grant from the taxpayer-funded Arts Council covered £30,000 and approximately £4,450 was raised in sponsorship deals.

Cllr Lorber, leader of Brent Liberal Democrats, said: “Labour is spending far more on this one-day event than the council used to spend on supporting the nine-day Navratri celebrations which took place in all parts of Brent and attracted over 30,000 people.

“It’s another example of Labour’s contempt for local voluntary organisations. It seems like Labour councillors are more interested in parties and gimmicks like holograms than getting the basics right.

“It’s time Brent Council focused on cutting out waste, cleaning the streets and answering the phone to residents.”

In addition, the council spent £8,000 was spent on publicity for the event which attracted more than 5,000 visitors.

Cllr Muhammed Butt, the leader of Brent Council, said: “Sunday’s fantastic civic centre opening was an opportunity for families and residents from across Brent to enjoy and get to know our brilliant new civic centre.

“This centre was built not just to bring all council services under the same roof for the first time – saving residents £4million per year in rent as well as operational costs such as heating and maintenance – but to be a hub for all of Brent’s communities.

“I’m proud that this event allowed the council to celebrate and promote the diversity and vibrancy of our borough, and residents to learn more about the many vital services Brent Council provides.

“I also believe that, with central government cuts impacting on our community more than ever, it’s vital that Brent residents and their council engage in an honest and open dialogue. Events such as this, which allow people to discuss their views directly with councillors and senior council officers, are so important.”

In August, it was announced the council spent £12,000 on a virtual assistant hologram for the civic centre reception desk, and in September they splashed out £5,000 on a budget simulator for residents to have their say on how the £20m of savings can be made.

The simulator has been branded a ‘gimmick’ by critics.

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