Hyndburn Council chiefs have defended splashing out more than £9,000 on celebrity appearances at Accrington Market Hall after finally unveiling details of its spending.
The council was one of the last eight in the UK to reveal details of payments over £500 to comply with new government rules.
More than £6,000 was paid to TV chef Aldo Zilli while former Coronation Street star Sean Wilson pocketed £2,500 to promote the Market Hall’s first Wednesday opening.
Among other expenditure from October to December was more than £33,000 spent on 36 lease cars, a new £8,000 portable speaker system and more than £1,000 on a one-hour ‘flashmob’ event in Accrington town centre.
Labour Councillor Tim O’Kane of Hyndburn Borough Council, said: "The cost of hiring these two celebrities for one day seems very extravagant, particularly when you consider that three months later the toilets at the Market Hall had to be shut down due to a lack of funds.
"What is particularly worrying is that Aldo Zilli appears to have been paid £675 expenses on top of his £5,500 fee for an afternoon’s work, money which could potentially have kept someone in employment.
"There’s also been more than £8,000 spent on a speaker system which as far as I’m aware will hardly ever be used, and I certainly haven’t heard that U2 are due to play in Hyndburn any time soon.
"The fact that Hyndburn was one of the last councils in the country to publish their expenditure also makes you question how committed the council is to complete transparency in its accounts."
Coun Marlene Haworth, cabinet member for Markets, defended spending on the October event as essential in publicising the attraction.
She said: "After spending £2 million on refurbishing the market and bringing it bang up to date, it was important to promote it to Pennine Lancashire and beyond and bringing a popular celebrity chef to Accrington was a part of this.
"It generated lots of editorial in the media worth thousands of pounds and brought an extra 3,000 people into Accrington, boosting the local economy.
"This money came from a pot of money specifically set aside for Town Centre promotion and had it not been spent we would have lost it."
Addressing the fact that the council was one of the last eight in the country to publish its figures, a spokeswoman added: "The guidance from the Government was still in draft form as at January 31 and we were awaiting publication of the final version.
"As this wasn’t forthcoming we published anyway."
The spokeswoman also explained that the new speaker system was a straight replacement for one which had broken down after being used around the borough for more than 10 years.
It is also understood council staff make contributions towards lease car costs out of their pay packets, and that elected members are not part of the scheme.
Other spending included:
- £5,675 on a temporary wall at Accrington Market
- £22,000 in October on ‘preventing violent extremism’ to charity AAWAZ.
- £20,638 on Christmas decorations and celebration events.
- £1,485.87 on new street name plates
- £9,841 on weedkilling
- £32,768 on agency staff
- £49,443 on marketing costs.