City council leader Mike Whitby has defended a council manager’s £7,000 festive bash at taxpayers’ expense.
The Tory chief claimed the meeting, a black-tie event at the ICC hosted by city chief executive Stephen Hughes, is a routine quarterly morale boosting get together for senior managers which happened to coincide with Christmas.
He slammed an unidentified senior official who leaked details of the event and denied it was a ‘champagne and caviar’ bash.
Coun Whitby came under fire at question time in the council chamber from opposition Labour group deputy leader Ian Ward.
Coun Ward (Shard End) said: “At a time when many council staff are facing pay cuts and taxpayers are struggling to meet bills, is it right for the chief executive to be hosting a £56-per-head Christmas junket? I find it hard to believe a Christmas event at the ICC is a normal management message. It sends the wrong message to the people of Birmingham.”
But in a robust defence of his most senior official Coun Whitby (Cons, Harborne) replied: “This council has much to celebrate. These staff have delivered a 1.9 per cent council tax rise and continued improvements to service delivery.
“After a year of success it was thought appropriate to do something for management.”
He said it was part of an ongoing round of meetings held every 13 weeks and stressed alcohol would be paid for by managers.
But he saved a final salvo for the individual who leaked the details, saying they had broken a confidence.
In a reference to the controversial arrest of Tory MP Damian Green he added, “We are learning from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith on how to deal with people like this.”