Friday, 15 April 2011

Olympic tickets: Plenty for H&F Councillors

You may recall that our Council intend to purchase, with our money, 100 Olympic tickets that will guarantee some of our finest elected councillors front row seats at some of the highlights of the 2012 Games, including the opening and closing ceremonies. This has gone down like a cup of cold sick with those on the receiving end of some of the hefty cuts which were voted through at this rumpus filled meeting at Hammersmith Town Hall recently.

On the defensive, our Council claim that they are purchasing the tickets "at no cost to taxpayers" - without explaining how on earth this is possible given that all of their money does indeed come from taxpayers, and those same taxpayers won't themselves stand any chance of getting the front row seats that these tickets offer even if they manage to fight through the queues to buy some themselves. The answer, is that they hope all councillors will pay for them at the reduced rate at which they are offered, themselves. So they will use our money but hope that we will be reimbursed - a bit like an interest free loan.

When I first reported this story, which has strangely stayed off the pages of the local media here for reasons that surely have nothing to do with their new paymasters, I suggested that the Council might like to auction some of the tickets off to raise money for local charity. But answer there came none.

So it might be instructive to look at what some other Councils are going to be doing too. We know, for example, that Redbridge Council will be returning their allocation without spending any money at all. Their leader, LibDem Ian Bond said to the Standard: "I would be disappointed if any council thought it was appropriate to take the tickets. For us it was a no-brainer."

We also know a bit more about other councils thanks to a  Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats in London, which has revealed that:

  • The Tories over in Barnet are insisting that they find a private sponsor to pay for their tickets if they buy them, and then they'll be offering them to local people who have inspired others to take part in sport in the borough. I have no problem with that at all, well done Barnet.
  • Labour run Islington has applied for private sector sponsorship as well to pay for them and then intend to give the tickets to what they call "young and vulnerable residents". Three cheers for Islington.
  • And next door Ealing have applied for only 37 out of the 100 tickets on offer, but intend to distribute all but 2 of them to children in council care. So tax payers money but used for tax payers causes.

So what of Hammersmith & Fulham? They intend to buy all 100 tickets and offer them only to councillors, who presumably will share them with friends and family. In a recent email to councillors Anthony Lyn, Head of Executive Services, said that: "the tickets cannot be put on open public sale" - well no, Mr Lyn, but as you can see other councils have found ways of funding this through the private sector and then donating them to the community - why can't you?

1300 UPDATE - The Council has responded to this publicity and announced that they will now not be taking any of the allocation at all. Credit to them for acting on how this all looked to local people.

1 comment:

  1. Well said Chris.
    I really hope H&F follow the lead shown by other councils and donate the tickets to young and vulnerable residents. Young carers spring to mind; they could do with the break / reward. It would be a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the Big Society concept in action. Securing private funding for public benefit in H&F.