Bill for Camden Council’s mayor making reception soars to £11,000 as councillors from all parties criticise ‘excessive spending’
PUBLISHED: 18:00 24 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:50 25 June 2019
Vanessa Berberian 2019
Camden Council spent £4,000 more on its 2019 mayor making ceremony than in any of the previous three years, the Ham&High can reveal.
The annual bash on May 15, where Cllr Maryam Eslamdoust was made Camden's first citizen, cost a total of £11,334.42. Previous ceremonies in 2016, 2017 and 2018 cost £6,882, £7,139 and £7,027 respectively.
An increase of 61 per cent on last year, it has been criticised as "excessive". One Camden Labour councillor said it felt like "no expense was spared."
The amount includes £2,000 of decor design, £4,400 on food and £1,000 on lighting and staffing. A further £1,233 was spent on having the ceremony held in the Crowndale Centre, rather than the town hall in Judd Street, which is undergoing refurbishment. A Camden Council spokesperson has not been able to detail what the £1,233 paid for.
The figures have been revealed after a Freedom of Information request. The Ham&High understands the council looked at hiring an external venue for the night as the Crowndale Centre, in Mornington Crescent, wasn't felt to be grand enough.
Cllr Eslamdoust, a staffer for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has recently given birth to her and fellow Kilburn councillor Thomas Gardiner's first child. Her chosen charity for the year is Solace Women's Aid.
The expenditure has drawn criticism from all parties on the council, including some inside the ruling Labour group. On the night some Labour councillors went home after the formal meeting had finished, rather than stick around for the drinks and food reception.
One said: "It was like a wedding reception. Looking around it felt that a lot had been spent and it was somewhat excessive.
"Clearly socialism starts at home and socialists have very expensive tastes."
Camden's Conservative opposition leader Oliver Cooper (Hampstead Town) said council bosses needed to keep a "hard limit" on future costs.
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He said: "I think the council should take a serious look at its priorities if it wants to hold lavish parties to celebrate themselves, rather than spending that money on services and keeping down council tax.
"The average Camden resident will never have spent £2,000 on decor design in their life. For it to be spent on one party will look like a bit of a joke. It is perfectly acceptable to have something like this on a smaller budget as we have before."
Lib Dem leader CLlr Flick Rea (Fortune Green) said: "It seems a little bit extravagant. It was a good night and event, but maybe we should be thinking about how much we are eating and drinking when people are going to food banks or struggling to pay for the weekly shop."
A total of 220 guests, as well as councillors and staff, were invited. The mayor making sees the outgoing mayor hand over the chains to their replacement.
Green Party leader and councillor for Highgate Sian Berry agreed it was "a lot to spend" and that next year's event had to be cheaper.
Meanwhile, the Labour councillor said that the local party as a whole had to take its share of responsibility.
"I am really surprised that there wasn't reflection on how bad it looks," they said. "In the period of tough local government austerity, which is something we campaign against, it looks pretty shocking.
"We have to own up to this issue and recognise that it was too much and it went too far. It needs to be in check for future years. A record amount has been spent."
A Camden Council spokesperson said: "This was the first time the mayor making, the only significant event in the mayoral calendar not to act as a fundraiser for the mayor's chosen charity, has been held at the Crowndale Centre.
"Some of the set-up costs for the event proved to be higher in this new venue - however, they were significantly less than hiring a bespoke external venue. This was the first time the council have used the venue in this manner and the event proved very useful in planning for future commercial hire of the space.
"[The] mayor carries out both a civic and charity role, and over the past three years our mayors have raised over £212,000 in money, goods and services for various charities including mental health, rough sleeping and youth services, leading to direct and significant improvements in the lives of Camden residents. The event provides the launchpad to the mayoral year and the mayor's chosen charity."