Regional development agency Advantage West Midlands has been accused of being “out of touch with reality” by spending £113,000 on a half-day conference during the worst recession in living memory.
The cost of the session worked out at £200 a delegate – with free snacks and drinks costing £35 per person.
Labelling the session a “disgrace”, the West Midlands TaxPayers’ Alliance said the event should have been scaled back or cancelled.
Held at the ICC in Birmingham last November, AWM’s annual conference is an opportunity to discuss the regional economic strategy and promote its work to invited delegates.
But TaxPayers’ Alliance spokeswoman Fiona McEvoy said it was inappropriate to spend so much money on a “self-congratulatory” conference when many firms were fighting for government assistance and tax breaks in order to survive the credit crunch.
She added: “How could anyone claim that this expense represents value for money? The cost of refreshments alone works out to more than most ordinary people would spend on a three course meal.
“As people all around the West Midlands are losing their jobs and struggling to put food on the table for their families, it’s a real disgrace that taxpayers are funding a day of free food and back-slapping for these public sector fat cats. The money spent here is several times the average salary and could have been put to good use elsewhere, but instead it was frittered on a meaningless conference that achieved little in the way of helping ordinary people during this time of recession.”
Details of the cost were obtained by the TaxPayers’ Alliance from a Freedom of Information request.
It’s not the first time AWM has been criticised over its annual conference.
In 2007, the event cost £118,000.
An AWM spokesman said: “The annual conference was the biggest gathering of key business leaders and public sector organisations from across the region in 2008.
“The immensity of the economic downturn was only just beginning to emerge and the conference was a tailor-made platform to outline how partners could work together as a region to address the crisis.”