Why £8,500 of city council taxpayers’ cash was spent on a “pantomime strategy”

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Cinderella was this year's Marlowe Theatre panto (file image)

A total of £8,500 of Canterbury City Council taxpayers’ cash was spent last year on a “pantomime strategy”.

The figure emerged as part of an investigation by The Times of London into spending on consultants who charge local authorities for advice on how to manage their affairs.

In Canterbury’s case the money was spent by the Marlowe Theatre, which was still under the council’s purview at the time of the spend.

Now an independent charitable trust, the Marlowe explained that the money was used to develop a new system of pricing tickets and had used a firm called Baker Richards, a firm which specialises in software for arts and cultural organisations.

Spokesman Sarah Munday told the Canterbury Journal: “The Marlowe worked with Baker Richards to develop a new pricing strategy for the theatre’s annual pantomime, one of the biggest selling Christmas shows in the region.

“Analysis undertaken involved detailed data trend analysis of sales patterns for past pantomime productions for the purpose of informing future approaches to pricing, demand management and strategic initiatives to develop audiences.”

The Times investigation found that local authority spending on consultants had risen from an annual £327 million to £395 million in the last four years – despite councils pleading that they facing budgetary cuts which is forcing them to reduce frontline services.

Examples of spending on consultants include Leeds City Council which spent £121,000 for its European City of Culture bid.

A council in Northern Ireland spent £2,100 on an economic impact report into a clown festival while Derby spent £2,400 on a golf strategy.

Layla Moran, a Lib Dem MP who sits on the Public Accounts Committee, described the findings as “absolutely shocking”.

She asked: “When schools, hospitals and emergency services are being cut year on year, why are struggling local councils across the country wasting so much money?”

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