Councillors told to pay for hospitality at Sunderland Airshow

Catering for councillors at the Sunderland International Airshow has been put in the spotlight.
Catering for councillors at the Sunderland International Airshow has been put in the spotlight.
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Councillors have been told they must put their hands in their pockets if they want to enjoy hospitality at this year’s Sunderland International Airshow after costs were put under scrutiny.

Sunderland City Council was asked about the expense of hosting members at this year’s event by Doxford Park resident Heather Fagan.

This announcement is better late than never, and comes after years of campaigning to get the council to change its policy.

Heather Fagan

But chiefs say the days of free food for councillors and guests are gone, with a strict message that if they want to take up the offer food and drink, they have to pay.

It comes after Ms Fagan questioned if catering would be free to them at the show.

Cabinet Member for communities and culture, Coun John Kelly, told the Echo: “While there may have been a certain level of subsidised costs in previous years, outweighed by the commercial income generated by the event, this is no longer the case.

“The leadership of the council very recently outlined to all elected members that if they wished to experience the airshow enclosure they would need to purchase tickets at the same price as the public.”

He added: “There was not going to be ‘free catering’ as Ms Fagan implies.”

The council has said the airshow, which will run from Friday, July 27, to Sunday, July 29, brings in millions of people to Wearside and city welcomes support for the “popular free outdoor event.”

The meeting heard £300 would be spent on meals for around 30 forces veterans, hosted by the mayor Lynda Scanlan and council leader Graeme Miller, but others would have to pay £30 to attend.

Ms Fagan said in 2015, the council confirmed all members were invited to make use of a VIP tent where a lunch, afternoon tea and hot drinks were served.

The council has told the Echo it cannot specify when charges were brought in.

Ms Fagan, a Liberal Democrat campaigner, said: “For years residents have been up in arms at the fact that councillors received free hospitality in the VIP marquee at the Sunderland Airshow.

“This announcement is better late than never, and comes after years of campaigning to get the council to change its policy.”

Lib Dem councillors say they refuse airshow hospitality and taxpayer-funded meals after council meetings.

This year’s airshow - the 30th anniversary of the event - will feature attractions including the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the RAF Red Arrows, the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team across the three-day spectacular.