John Prescott's woes continued today with revelations in The Times that the Deputy Prime Minister's grandly-styled ‘Sustainable Communities Summit’ in Manchester’s G-Mex next year has been covertly cancelled by his successor, Ruth Kelly – with the taxpayer left footing a £300,000 bill.
In March, John Prescott pledged the ‘biggest ever’ Communities Summit 2007 – a “prestigious international event” to bring together “senior politicians and international speakers from around the world.” There would be Prescott’s personal Awards Ceremony & Dinner: Building on the “outstanding success” of his 2005 Communities Summit, and his Department proclaimed that his event would include “the Deputy Prime Minister’s Awards”, “a major exhibition” and a sumptuous “Conference Dinner.” His previous 2005 taxpayer-bankrolled Summit was attended by a European Commissioner, the Secretary-General of the OECD and the Mayor of Chicago.
So just months after Prescott was sacked from his job, Parliamentary Questions by Conservatives have forced the Government to admit that they have quietly abandoned the Summit, leaving the taxpayer with a bill of £291,000 wasted on aborted planning, of which £60,000 were on cancellation fees alone.
In classic New Labour jargon, Ministers have explained this cancellation was due to a “new approach to stakeholder engagement” and since the 2005 summit was so “successful in raising awareness” that a 2007 conference wasn’t needed after all – despite the expense already incurred in organising it.
These words from Prescott sound a bit hollow now: “I am delighted that the Sustainable Communities Summit will be returning to Manchester. The 2005 Summit was the biggest of its kind ever to be staged and I look forward to building on its outstanding success next year.”
Still, it's only £300K of your money. Don't suppose you begrudge it, do you? Thought not.
UPDATE: Many apologies to TheoSpark for forgetting his hattip earlier on!