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Lord Mayor to feel chill of austerity Birmingham

Lord Mayor to feel chill of austerity Birmingham

🕔12.Feb 2013

banquetThe cold wind of the age of austerity is set to sweep through one of the last bastions of opulence – the inauguration of Birmingham’s Lord Mayor.

With every other conceivable element of city council spending in the process of being cut, it was only a matter of time before the mayoral budget came in for some radical pruning.

An advisory group consisting of former lord mayors and senior councillor has been beavering away for several months now and its recommendations will go to the next full council meeting.

It’s proposed that the number of guests attending the mayor making dinner at the Council House banqueting suite free of charge be reduced from 550 (yes, really, 550) to 328.

Those who will have to pay in future include MPs, while MEPs simply won’t be invited any longer. Councillors, Aldermen and Freemen of the city will still get free tickets, but any guests they take must be paid for.

The new Lord Mayor, Labour’s Mike Leddy for 2013-14, will only be able to invite 12 guests free of charge, compared to 20 in the past. Outgoing Lord Mayor John Lines will be able to invite four guests, down from six.

And while the banquet won’t yet be reduced to bread and water, the beanfeasts of the past will become a distant memory with overall costs being cut by half. It’s proposed that the pre-dinner drinks reception be cancelled, unless a sponsor can be found to bankroll the champagne and canapes. The Findus Lord Mayor’s reception, perhaps?

The dinner is to be reduced from three courses to two and, horror of horrors, there will be only two bottles of free wine per table of 10. It’s estimated that the austerity dinner will cost £8,416 compared to £12,620 for the 2012 three course bash with free drinks reception.

Things could have been worse, however. One proposal considered but rejected was to replace the lavish banquet with a “seated and served knife and fork buffet” at a cost of just £4,328.

The civic catering unit is keen to emphasise that standards will not slip. Guests will still tuck into fillet of beef main course and a “top end dessert”, whatever that is.

It’s become increasingly difficult for the council to justify Birmingham’s generous approach to mayor making given the frugal approach taken by other cities. John Lines’s 2012 inauguration cost about £27,000 for the whole day, while Bristol got by with a church service and zero cost, Manchester had a lunch costing £440 and Newcastle spent £800 on a church service followed by tea and sandwiches.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore said: “The important principle here is that we bring down the cost per head of those attending the mayor making.”

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