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“Greedy, self-serving and narcissistic” councillors take free theatre tickets away from children in care

January 30, 2020 10:02 PM
By Martin Haswell

Liberal Democrats have hit out at a "new low" in Sunderland politics, after Labour and Conservative councillors changed a plan to axe free theatre tickets for city councillors so that tickets are taken away for children in care as well.

Martin Haswell in Ford Estate

Lib Dem councillor Martin Haswell

Opposition Liberal Democrat councillors had called a vote on ending the giving of hundreds of free Empire Theatre tickets to city councillors.

The debate and vote took place at the meeting of all 75 city councillors at Sunderland Civic Centre yesterday evening (29th January).

Lib Dem councillors - who have never taken the tickets - wanted all parties to commit to refusing to take the free tickets and in the longer term to end the situation where those running the Empire are obliged to offer free tickets to councillors.

It came after a freedom of information request by Wearside Liberal Democrats revealed that over 170 freebie tickets were taken by Labour and Conservative councillors between May 2017 and June 2019.

However, the motion was amended by the Labour and Conservative groups so that whilst free tickets for city councillors will end, so too will tickets given to children in care.

Lib Dem councillors had proposed "that within any future contract for private business to run the Empire Theatre, free tickets for Councillors are not part of the agreement" and that the Council should "maintain existing arrangements as far as possible for tickets for tickets to be offered to community groups and good causes".

However, these parts of the new Council policy were replaced by Conservative and Labour councillors with the words "ensure that within any future contract for private business to run the Empire Theatre, complimentary tickets issued to the council are not part of the agreement."Whilst this will see an end to freebie tickets for city councillors, it will also mean no other tickets issued to the council can continue - including those given to deserving causes like children in care.

Commenting, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Sunderland City Council Martin Haswell said:

"This is a new low in spiteful, petty politics from Labour and Conservative councillors in Sunderland. Just because their perks were being axed and they face having to pay for their theatre tickets just like everyone else, they have shamefully dealt a cruel blow for children in care at the same time.

"Its bad enough that councillors were on the take in the first place - but now they have thrown their toys out the pram and said that if they can't have freebie tickets neither can people who actually deserve them.

"It's unbelievably shameful and I hope they do the right thing and make sure that young people in care, charities and community groups across the city who deserve any spare Empire tickets can continue to benefit instead of tickets being given to greedy, self-serving and narcissistic councillors."