Mayor’s ball cancelled due to cost and lack of interest

The Mayor of Crawley has cancelled the annual civic ball due to dwindling interest and rising costs.

Mayor Cllr Keith Blake said costs had risen due to venue The Hawth being under private management.

He said a cheaper, simpler reception would be organised with more community and charity representatives able to attend.

Cllr Blake said: “It’s become obvious over the last month that people weren’t willing to accept the invitations.

“I suppose it’s the financial climate and it comes down to the fact that people just can’t afford to do it now. All in all it was just a step too far.

“I’m very disappointed. I had hoped it would be a good ball. We could have gone ahead and had fewer people but it wouldn’t have been what I wanted. I wanted a special event.”

Cllr Blake said bad press over MPs’ expenses and the price of previous balls had influenced the decision.

He said: “With everything that’s happened over the last few years with MPs’ expenses it’s very difficult for the council to subsidise events of this nature. The public ware unwilling to pay for them.

“There’s a lot more discomfort and you have to acknowledge that people don’t like to see their taxes spent on jollies for councillors.”

He said sponsorship for the ball had been sought but none was forthcoming.

Cllr Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate), leader of the Crawley Labour Group, said the reception would be more community focused.

He said: “People don’t want to see politicians out and about having swanky dos at times of austerity.

“Part of the issue with price is something that’s happened since the Hawth has been handed over to private control.

“It’s an example of how when you put things out to private tender there are always things that get forgotten about in the contract.”

Councillors and their guests would have had to pay £40 a head for the for ball but it would still cost taxpayers a considerable amount.

Decorations and flowers for the 2012 civic ball cost £1,202 while printing and invitations came to £143.05.

Catering and supplies were £5,993.53 with ticket sales recouping £2671.08.

This resulted in a total cost to the taxpayer of £4,667.50. Around £2,500 was raised on the night for charity.

Cllr Blake said: “The cost of the flowers last time created negative stories and in that case might have been excessive.”

The transfer of The Hawth from council-run to privately managed has also increased the budget.

Cllr Blake added: “There are other issues around that weren’t there when it was run by the council. We were charged commercial rates for it because it’s a profit-making company.”

The new event, which has not yet been organised, will be held on the same day at The Hawth and is intended to be cheaper and simpler.

It is hoped the additional guests paying less on tickets will give me to charity and bolster fundraising coffers.

Cllr Blake added: “There will more people there so it might be that they are willing to spend more money if they haven’t actually had to spend nearly £100 on tickets.”