Cabinet meetings outside London cost £200,000 each

Ben Padley,Pa
Wednesday 07 January 2009 12:40 GMT

Gordon Brown's decision to hold Cabinet meetings outside London is costing the taxpayer upwards of £200,000 a time, new figures suggest.

The sessions, which were held in Birmingham and Leeds last year, along with one in Liverpool tomorrow, could land taxpayers' with a bill of £600,000.

West Yorkshire Police have revealed they spent £138,000 on security for the Leeds event on 28 November.

The Prime Minister has previously said the Cabinet's first regional meeting, held in Birmingham last September, cost £62,000 excluding security costs. If similar sums were spent on each event then it would cost £600,000.

Until last year, the last time a Cabinet meeting was held outside London was 1921.

Yorkshire Minister Rosie Winterton said of the Leeds event: "Hosting this event gave us the opportunity of getting the Prime Minister to Halifax and the Chancellor to Bradford & Bingley to allow them to put forward the case for saving thousands of jobs in the region.

"People in Yorkshire should welcome the work we are doing in trying to safeguard jobs here."

She added: "We need the support of central government for that which is why bringing everyone to Leeds was a very worthwhile exercise."

But Robert Goodwill, who is shadow minister for Leeds, dismissed the events as "a bit of a gimmick".

He said: "The cost of hosting them given the increased security is something that should be borne by Labour rather than by the taxpayer.

"I can understand them wanting to show their presence in Yorkshire for political reasons. We did something similar in Bradford earlier last year, that is perfectly reasonable, but our event didn't cost anywhere near that much."

Mark Wallace of the Taxpayers' Alliance said: "This bill is unfair to put on local taxpayers, particularly when these meetings were just PR exercises to promote the Government, rather than give local people real power."

Ministers insist the sessions show the public they are not spending all their time in London and give them a chance to listen to local people as well as make ministerial visits across the regions where they are held.

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