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Ratepayers' Shard Bill.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

COUNCIL has defended spending thousands of pounds of ratepayers' money hosting an event at one of London's most expensive hotels.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council hosted an 'Investor Showcase and Networking Event' at The Shard in London in October.

In a Freedom of Information request by this paper, we asked just how much the exclusive event, part of a series of business events, cost the public purse.

It was revealed that flights and accommodation were paid for council officers and three councillors alongside the event organisation. The cost to council for "organising the event" was 6,300.

The remainder of the bill for the event in the five-star luxury hotel was from sponsorship secured from Lotus Group, Rushmere, Turkington's and TLT Solicitors.

The event was worth the outlay, argues council. By hosting the event for industry high-fliers, it could "help to create 8,000 jobs in the borough over the next nine years".

Sinn Fein Councillor Kevin Savage believes to get investment in the borough you have to "go to where the investors are".

"We hope it will be money well spent and we will hold the council and its officers to account and make sure that the council is getting value for money. We need to be careful how we spend money so we will be looking to see a return on this investment," he said.

A council spokesman described The Shard investors' event as an "all-round success in terms of numbers who attended, contacts made and interest generated".

"Thanks to sponsorship support, the council has been able to deliver this event at minimal cost to local ratepayers and is optimistic that events such as this will yield positive outcomes in the long term."


Deputy Lord Mayor Sam Nicholson, Chair and Vice-Chair of the Economic Development and Regeneration Committee Councillors Joe Nelson and Colin McCusker and eight council officers attended.

Commenting on the spend, Councillor Glenn Barr said: "It is a lot of money for one event but if we can get a return on that and see hundreds or thousands of jobs created for our area then it is worth it.

"We need to put the borough on the map especially when we have no minister in Stormont," said Councillor Barr.

Meanwhile, Councillor Kevin Savage said: "We need to go to the investors as they will not come to us. We hope it will be money well spent and we will hold the council and its officers to account and make sure that the council is getting value for money.

"We need to be careful how we spend money so we will be looking to see a return on this investment.

"We are trying to get the message out that the borough is open for business and we need inward investment."


At the time of the event in October, council said its attendance at the MIPIM UK, the UK's largest property and investment conference, was the first step in "actively promoting our strong investment proposition".

The Outlook asked in a Freedom of Information request how much did council spend hosting the event in The Shard, the tallest building in the UK at 1,016 ft.

Council said it was able to keep its spend of 6,300 to a minimum, as the event was sponsored by a number of businesses who currently operate in the council area.

However, council could not say what percentage that 6,300 contributed to the event and how much the final bill was.

"We have searched our records and can advise that, as the event was sponsored by Lotus Group, Rushmere, Turkington's and TLT Solicitors and sponsorship was secured by a third party, the council does not hold the information you requested."


Accommodation costs for attending this event as well as a series of business events, totalled 2,261 while the flight costs were 2,505.68.

"The only cost to council that can be directly attributed to the event in The Shard is that for organisation of the event (6,300)," said a council spokesperson.

The council said that there were many benefits to hosting the event.

"Hosting an Investor Showcase and Networking Event on the eve of MIPIM UK provided an invaluable opportunity for the council to showcase the borough and its strong proposition as a potential investment location to over 100 major decision makers and intermediaries in the UK and international property markets.

"By actively engaging with high-level stakeholders, the council has been able to profile the borough to a new audience of potential investors, establish new contacts, identify new inward investment opportunities and share information on the borough's extensive investment and economic growth opportunities in terms of regeneration, economic development and tourism.

"If the council is to be successful in achieving its number one priority of growing the local economy, it's important that it has a presence at events such as MIPIM UK and sends out a message to the national and international marketplace that the borough is 'open for business'.

"The event was considered an allround success in terms of numbers who attended, contacts made and interest generated.

"Thanks to sponsorship support, the council has been able to deliver this event at minimal cost to local ratepayers and is optimistic that events such as this will yield positive outcomes in the long-term," said a council spokesperson

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