YORK'S 'Fairness Conference' cost more than £18,000 to stage, including £4,000 to produce a website and £4,000 for refreshments and drinks, it has been revealed.
The international conference, staged last month at the University of York, featured speakers including the Archbishop of York, MPs, York council leader James Alexander and his counterparts from local authorities from across the UK and Europe. It aimed to deliver a more caring, more cohesive society and a fairer City of York.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that the total cost of the event was £18,235, with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation providing a £10,000 grant and City of York Council meeting the rest of the cost.
The bill included £4,000 to local digital company One&Other for the yorkfairness.com website, £2,000 to the same organisation for a conference video, £2,000 to Pilot Theatre for webcasting, £736 for speaker accommodation, £820 for speakers' flights and £4,186 for refreshments and drinks - with leftover food donated to the Peasholme homeless charity.
The council's LibDem group leader Keith Aspden said it was right to ask whether the conference was a good use of taxpayers’ money, adding: "Personally, I think the money might have been better spent on direct initiatives to help people in poverty in York."
Tory leader Chris Steward said that although many of the aims of the Fairness Commission were laudable, it was vital there should be tangible help for people 'rather than the likes of Labour politicians grandstanding with political speeches and all the vast costs that this conference has incurred.'
However, Green leader Andy D'Agorne said that compared with the £80,000 spent on promotional York adverts at Leeds Bradford airport and half a million on repaving Kings Square, it had been a 'relatively modest spend on a worthwhile project tackling the causes of poverty rather than the symptoms.'
A spokesman for he ruling Labour group said: "It is disappointing Liberal Democrats who defend Tories penalising the poor are so keen to attack spending that backs The Press' 'Stamp Out Poverty' campaign."
Labour council leader James Alexander said the wine reception for the international guests was paid for by the University of York and the event and contacts made through it would help inform the future development of financial Inclusion and poverty strategies.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said one of the recommendations from the York Fairness Commission had been to hold a Fairness Conference to promote the city’s attempts to reduce poverty and become a fairer place to live. "We felt it important to support this," said a spokesman.