Its Mayor-Making season and I have been invited to several very enjoyable events. So imagine my surprise when last night a Councillor friend of mine decided to boycott his borough's event. He said he felt that Labour Greenwich’s offering was overly decadent given the current financial situation of the country.
I was appalled, what sort of a killjoy Councillor refuses to turn up to the most important event of the Civic year just because there is some free catering? How wrong my reaction really was. He explained that instead of using their historic Town Hall they had booked the Painted Hall of the Old Royal Naval College.
Having been invited to dinner in the Painted Hall, I would agree with their marketing bumf which says its “probably the finest dining room in the world”. Whilst I have no doubt this event was great fun for everyone in attendance, it also cost £30,000.
Lancaster City Council had an £18-a-head dinner, which actually made a profit for the Mayor's Charity, whilst frugal Hammersmith and Fulham served a few well chosen but cheap bottles of wine. Then some of the councillors went for a few pints in the pub across the road.
So what on earth made Greenwich think that they’re entitled to treat themselves to a £30,000 night out? Has their designation as a Royal Borough – due to come into force in 2012 – made them a little more grand than everyone else?
If this is true then they’re in for a shock. The new Mayor of the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, Cllr Asghar Majeed, laid on a Halal dinner at his own expense. And even those at the official reception were treated to low cost wine and cheap nibbles (The Mayor attended both).
The Mayor-Makings I have attended this year have all been excellent. Greenwich don’t need to waste a fortune on theirs because the important element is seeing your friend or colleague being afforded this great honour. The party afterwards must be enjoyable but also coincidental to what really matters.
As if to add insult to injury on the very night of the Mayor-Making in Greenwich, they were cutting budgets for vital community groups. Surely most of those who went to this lavish event at the Painted Hall would rather have had a glass of orange cordial at the Town Hall knowing that the £30,000 saving was going to the community – or maybe even towards a Council Tax cut!