Kirklees Council has stopped paying for celebrities to appear at its functions.
The confirmation came after a new study under Freedom of Information rules revealed celebrity guests including Emmerdale stars, Strictly dancers and a fashion designer have been paid nearly £20,000 to appear at Kirklees Council-organised events over the past five years.
And in one of them, the council’s own staff were treated to a motivational talk – by a man paid £3,000 for doing so.
But the council have now confirmed they have stopped paying for celebrity events and bring in experts only to help training projects.
Figures released by Kirklees Council show £17,047 has been paid to celebrities for appearing at events the council has been involved in since 2010/11. While some of these costs were covered by corporate funding and sponsorship, some has come from council budgets.
The council paid £3,000 for motivational speaker Paul McGee to talk about dealing with uncertainty to a council-wide audience in 2013 while Bob Flowerdew was paid £2,500 to answer horticultural queries from attendees and take part in a Dewsbury Gardener’s Question Time with local gardeners at the 2010 Dewsbury Flower and Vegetable Show.
Fashion designer Wayne Hemmingway was paid £2,000 to appear at Creative Summit in 2014 – a conference for the creative sector in Kirklees – while former Strictly dancers Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova were paid £1,933 in 2010 to run a workshop at the Teaching Support Staff Conference.
Emmerdale stars Lucy Pargeter and Nicola Wheeler, who play Chas and Nicola in the soap, were paid £2,000 to appear at the 2012 Batley and Dewsbury Christmas Lights switch on. Adam Thomas, who plays Adam in Emmerdale, also attended the same event in 2014, with the cost covered by Pulse Radio.
A spokesman for Kirklees Council said: “It is important to separate occasions where partners have booked and paid celebrities as part of joint promotional events, and occasions where the council has asked experts in their field to deliver training to key groups of staff.
“There have been no occasions in 2014 and 2015 where celebrities have been booked to appear at events.
“Wayne Hemingway and Paul McGee are both field leaders in their particular subjects, and delivered workshops to help develop local business and our staff as Kirklees and the council changes. We review all our spending on external trainers and speakers against strict criteria, measuring the value they add in our long term strategic thinking against the costs involved.”
Calderdale Council said it had not paid any celebrities to appear at its events. A spokesman said Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, had attended tourism conferences in April 2012, April 2013 and September 2014 to speak to businesses, but there was no charge.
The council also said it did invite authors to talk about their books to children and adults as part of its Reader Development programme, and local historians do talks on subjects such as WW1 in libraries and museums, but they do not receive any financial remuneration.