Sunderland City Council are set to contribute £50,000 to the staging of a Spice Girls concert due to take place at the Stadium of Light in June.
The figure, which came to light during the council’s budget setting meeting on 25 February, attracted criticism from both Conservative and Liberal Democrat opposition councillors, who argued the council’s budget would be better spent in other areas.
Coun Stephen O’Brien, a Liberal Democrat who represents the Sandhill ward, said: “I’m for tourism, but, when other councils such as Cardiff, Bristol and Coventry all have the Spice Girls and have made zero contribution to that concert.”
He continued: “To say a football club the size of Sunderland, that they cannot themselves spare £50,000 to put on a concert they’re going to make millions off, seems to me slightly ludicrous.”
A freedom of information request to the council revealed that this is not the only time in recent history they have contributed a considerable sum of money to the staging of a concert. The council paid £75,000 towards a Beyoncé concert in 2016 and £50,000 towards a Foo Fighters concert in 2015, both of which were, like the Spice Girls, hosted at the Stadium of Light.
In 2014 alone, the council spent £100,000 of its budget on concerts, with One Direction and North East Live taking place at the Stadium.
In its response to the request, Sunderland City Council defended the spending, stating: “Concerts play an important role in helping to support and grow our economy, bringing thousands of people into a city where visitor expenditure was worth £429m to the city’s economy last year and 5,309 of the city’s jobs are supported by tourism.”
They added: “Each concert generates around £3.5m worth of spending in local restaurants, bars and hotels.”
Freedom of information requests to Newcastle City and Gateshead councils revealed they have spent much less on concerts than Sunderland Council.
Newcastle City Council stated £0 of its budget in the last five years has been spent on contributing towards concerts, while Gateshead Council revealed they had spent £6,490 in the last five years, but emphasised this money did not come from the budget, instead being sourced from the income received by the council.