CASH-STRAPPED Sunderland Council is helping to fund a music festival in North Yorkshire.
The news that the authority will sponsor a play area at next month’s Deer Shed Festival 4 – 60 miles from Wearside – comes as campaigners are fighting to save eight city libraries from the axe due to spending cuts.
Council bosses said the festival outlay will help boost tourism in Sunderland.
Despite repeated requests from the Echo, the council has not revealed how much it is giving to Deer Shed, in Baldersby Park, near Topcliffe.
But the spending has still sparked criticism.
“It is quite staggering actually,” said Independent group leader Councillor Colin Wakefield.
“We constantly hear what cuts the council has to make, the libraries being the latest.
“To find out we are funding an event in North Yorkshire to help tourism is quite staggering.”
He added: “It’s is absolutely amazing. It might help tourism in North Yorkshire, but not Sunderland.”
Deputy Tory group leader, Barnes ward Coun Peter Wood, said: “At first sight this seems rather strange, spending money outside of the city, at a time when we are having considerable cut backs within the city.
“If there is any spare money, I thought it this should go towards maintaining and developing the library service, rather than a rather strange investment outside.”
He added: “It is very important that the public know how much money is being spent, so they can make their own decision on what they think about it.”
Festival organisers first forged links with Sunderland last year, when Frankie & the Heartstrings headlined and the city council placed an advert in the festival programme.
Coun John Kelly, cabinet member for public Health, wellness and culture, said: “Sunderland City Council is working with Deer Shed Festival 2013 because we think this popular family friendly music, arts and science festival is a great fit for us and an ideal opportunity to share our new place brand See it – Do it Sunderland.
“The new campaign focuses on our family-friendly visitor offer in Sunderland, so we share the same ethos as Deer Shed Festival, plus the location in North Yorkshire is within our visitor catchment area.
“Sponsoring the Family Workshop area means that we can strengthen our working relationship with Deer Shed Festival and share our new See it – Do it Sunderland campaign, and showcase the variety and quality of the offer we provide to our visitors.”
Sunderland University has also partnered up with the festival, agreeing to sponsor the Machines tent and supplying students on site reporting through social networking site Twitter.
A spokeswoman said: “Deer Shed Festival is a great opportunity for the University of Sunderland to talk to families about the value and life changing experience which studying for a degree can bring.”