Former Birmingham City Council leader Lord Whitby has defended the decision to subsidise the Tory Party Conference saying it earns some £20 million for the local economy.
And he urged the Labour-run Birmingham City Council to push for more political conferences instead of withdrawing and leaving Manchester and Liverpool an open field.
His comments come after it emerged that 95 per cent of Marketing Birmingham’s £1.5 million annual events budget will be spent on hosting the Conservative Party Conference at the ICC in September.
Labour MPs said the subsidy, which goes to the NEC Group, for a political conference is too high at a time of council cuts.
Coun Lord Whitby, who signed off the deal in 2011, shortly before his term as council leader ended, said it provides a major boost to the city.
He said that in 2008 the £1 million subsidy to the conference was more than repaid with a £20 million boost for local businesses, 15,000 delegates visiting the city, including 1,000 national and international journalists - raising Birmingham’s profile.
He said: “This isn’t a cheque to the Conservative Party, this was giving money to the NEC Group, which the council owns anyway.
“The party conferences are undoubtedly one of the most cost-effective ways of bringing influential media to Birmingham and presenting the city in a positive light.”
He said that Manchester and Liverpool will be delighted that Birmingham has ruled itself out of the competition for political conferences. “They understand the importance of generating media attentions and attracting movers and shakers, which is true if the party is in Government.”
Lord Whitby said that meetings he held with George Osborne in 2010 paved the way for the funding of the Midland Metro extension fron Snow Hill to New Street.
Last week Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart (Lab) said: “Whether this was a Labour Party conference or a Conservative Party conference it wouldn’t be right.
“For an outgoing Conservative leader to sign off on such an expensive party conference makes it doubly bad. Now Birmingham is suffering under these Tory party cuts it is really adding insult to injury.”