Belfast Council has reversed a decision to spend £10K for sponsoring a business climate conference, in a spend described as a “vanity investment.”
At the council ’s recent Strategic Policy and Resources Committee last month, elected members narrowly agreed to pay the money, after a knife edge vote saw a People Before Profit proposal to not foot the £10K bill fail. Nine councillors from the DUP and Alliance voted to pay the £10K, while eight from Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Green Party, and People Before Profit voted against the payment.
Council officials recommended that the committee approve the funding contribution to the Management and Leadership Network who are hosting the prominent climate business conference, called “Sustain Exchange.” The total cost of the conference, which is being hosted at Titanic Belfast this week, will be in excess of £60,000.
At the monthly meeting of the full council on Tuesday (November 1st), a People Before Profit amendment successfully reversed the committee decision, with 29 votes from Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Green Party, and People Before Profit to 27 from the DUP, Alliance, the UUP and the PUP, who support the payment.
People Before Profit Councillor Fiona Ferguson said after the meeting: “I am glad and relieved that the council tonight reversed a committee decision to spend £10,000 on a vanity investment to brand a conference with the Council's logo. Council participation in this conference was not contingent on the payment making the fee entirely superfluous, other than to advertise.
“We are living in incredibly difficult times for many in our communities, as the cost of living crisis continues largely unabated. At the same time, threats of yet another hike in the rates are being touted, along with talk of tightened budgets in the coming period. In this context, a £10,000 council branding exercise would have been totally unnecessarily exorbitant.
“I argued against this payment at committee but was outvoted by parties including the DUP and the Alliance Party. I am glad that other parties tonight held the majority tonight and overturned this decision. If we are to continue with talk of difficult decisions, then those can come at the expense of the council's brand.”