£55-a-head gala dinner with former local government secretary in Northampton described as 'extremely poor taste'

A Tory-run meet-and-greet gala dinner in Northampton where guests can sit on a top table with the former local government secretary has been described as "poor taste" considering his department ignored the county's bailout pleas.

Sunday, 26th August 2018, 11:35 am
Updated Monday, 3rd September 2018, 12:17 pm
Conservative supporters can pay up to 95 a ticket to sit at a gala dinner with former communities secretary Sajid Javid.

The black-tie event at a central Northampton venue aims to treat Conservative supporters to "a spectacular evening of glamour, fundraising, fantastic food, and plenty of surprises," with Home secretary Sajid javid as the main attraction.

Mr Javid was the secretary for communities and local government last year when, in September, the leader of Northamptonshire County Council urged him to provide the cash-strapped authority with discretionary funding.

But the bailout was never forthcoming - and instead Mr Javid sent in an inspector to carry out a root and branch review of the council's financial management before sending in commissioners to reform One Angel Square.

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Mr Javid was the secretary for local government when the department ignored pleas to review its funding formula for Northamptonshire.

Yet Conservative sources believe there will be little trouble in selling out the gala dinner on September 21, which will see Javid give a "topical speech" and meet with fellow Conservatives.

General tickets are £55, but guests can pay up to £95 to sit at the top table with the home secretary. At the time of writing only three tickets remained.

Labour's cabinet member for finance at Northamptonshire County Council, Councillor Mick Scrimshaw says the event is in "extremely poor taste."

"I understand as a political party they will do whatever they need to raise money for elections.

Councillor Heather Smith wrote to Sajid Javid last September in a desperate bid to attract more funding to the county.

"But given what has happened locally and given his involvement in that process and the austerity that people in Northamptonshire are facing, I think it's crazy.

"Just hold a raffle guys, for goodness sake, get Theresa May in or something - Mr Javid is the one that has pushed this unitary solution on us."

In September last year, county council leader Councillor Heather Smith wrote to Mr Javid to "call for an urgent review of the current funding formula" for Northamptonshire.

In a statement at the time she said: "While we have always managed to deliver a balanced budget, it is becoming increasingly difficult to balance the increasing demand for local services against the reducing level of funding we receive from central government – which is significantly less than many comparable county councils."

Councillor Mick Scrimshaw says the gala dinner is in "extremely poor taste."

Northamptonshire County Council claimed at the time that, if it were to receive the same funding per head of population as East Sussex County Council, it would receive an extra £115 million to spend on local services every year - an additional £159 per person.

But sympathy from Mr Javid was limited.

A press release from his department in the wake of Max Caller's damning inspection report read "failures at the council were not due to a lack of funding, but as a result of poor management, a lack of budgetary control and a culture which discouraged challenge."

As the gala is a fundraising event, businesses are also being invited to sponsor balloons, pens and bottles of wine at prices ranging from £1,000 upwards.

Most of the county's seven MPs are expected to attend also.

Conservative county councillor for Kingsthorpe North, Sam Rumens, believes Mr Javid will be a welcome guest in Northampton.

"I certainly won't be telling anyone not to go to this, it's not his fault," he said.

"From my point of view there is nothing to suggest we don't have income to run the services we need to run."