Sunderland City Council has paid almost £400,000 to the city’s football club to help with the staging of pop concerts in recent years.
Figures uncovered by Sunderland’s Conservative group have shown that the authority sanctioned payments of £375,000 to the Black Cats, which has hosted top acts such as Beyonce, Rihanna and One Direction since 2013.
Council bosses have defended the contribution, saying that each concert brings in about £3.5million in spending from visitors.
But they reveaked that financial support for future concerts looks set to be removed under new budget proposals as the cash-strapped authority bids to save £74million.
A total of £150,000 was paid out in 2013 when Bon Jovi and Rihanna played the Stadium of Light, which also hosted the North East Live show.
The following year, £100,000 was paid to the club as it hosted boyband One Direction and another North East Live extravaganza.
“£375,000 has been paid out over the last four years during which time Labour Councillors in the city have been complaining about financial restrictions and claiming that there was insufficient money to spend locally.”Coun Robert Oliver
The Foo Fighters concert in 2015 saw £50,000 paid by the council, while £75,000 was paid this year as American superstar Beyonce performed on Wearside.
Councillor Robert Oliver questioned the payments, saying it was “inappropriate” for taxpayers to subsidise private events to such an extent.
Coun Oliver said: “Conservative Councillors in Sunderland support the concerts held at the Stadium of Light as they have boosted the city and brought in many visitors but there is no need for them to be subsidised by the taxpayer.
“£375,000 has been paid out over the last four years during which time Labour councillors in the city have been complaining about financial restrictions and claiming that there was insufficient money to spend locally.
“It is hard to reconcile this sort of spending where it is not needed with complaints that services have insufficient funding and it shows that the council is still not focusing on the priorities for residents.
“£375,000 would have gone a long way in supporting litter collection, security in parks, the library service and other services that residents see as a priority but instead it has been spent where it is not needed.
“The football club has more than enough income to fund the concerts themselves and the point should also be made that these concerts are being hosted on behalf of very wealthy musicians who don’t need subsidies so most local taxpayers will baulk at a large amount of their council tax being used to help them.”
Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “The city council is very keen on attracting visitors and seeing our economy boosted by their spending.
“Each stadium concert brings in a large number of visitors and boosts the profile of the city both nationally and internationally.
“Concerts also bring a significant amount of spending as people take their custom to bars, restaurants and many also stay overnight.
“With each concert bringing in around £3.5m of spending, these seven concerts have helped bring in an estimated £24m of spending.
“The council has also received publicity concessions from the club as part of these arrangements.
“Nonetheless, the council is facing more and more difficult choices in order to balance its budgets and make savings of more than £74million over the next three years.
“The latest budget proposals for the next financial year include the removal of financial support to the summer concert programme.”
SAFC said it did not want to comment on the figures.