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Revealed: How much one cash-strapped council spent booking 'z-list' celebs for events

By Peter Madeley | Sandwell | News | Published:

From soap stars to X Factor also-rans, a host of celebs were booked with taxpayers' cash

Were they really worth it? Top, Reality show favourite Jake Quickenden and music act Stooshe and, bottom, X Factor 'stars' Ray Quinn and Lydia Lucy

A cash-strapped Black Country council paid celebrities more than £20,000 for personal appearances over a two-year period.

Soap stars, X Factor also-rans and grime artists were among those hired by Labour-run Sandwell Council in 2015 and 2016.

They include former X Factor contestant and I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! runner up Jake Quickenden, who was paid £3,000 for a four-hour stint judging a talent show at Sandwell College in June 2015.

Other celebrities include actor and former X Factor runner up Ray Quinn, who received £1,600 to switch on the Christmas lights in Wednesbury.

The figures were provided through a Freedom of Information request and show that the council hired 12 celebrities in 2015 and 2016.

The majority of them performed at youth festivals in the borough and the total outlay was £21,811.

Critics have branded the outlay ‘reckless’, with Lib Dems in the Black Country accusing the authority of demonstrating ‘a total disregard for taxpayers money’.

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Abi Phillips from Hollyoaks was paid £1,500 to host and perform at the borough’s SHAPE Your Talent Final in 2015, along with Britain’s Got Talent 2009 finalist Aiden Davis, who was given £2,000 for a 30 minute set and singer Calum Scott, who the council paid £3,000.

Brummie grime stars Dapz on the Map & Jaykae were paid £1,100 for performing at the same festival.

The following year Lydia Lucy, of The Voice, X Factor and The Only Way Is Essex fame, received £2,800 to judge a talent show and perform a set of her hits.

Asian music artist Zack Knight, best known for his hit Bom Diggy, was paid £1,750 for a half hour set at the SHAPE Youth Festival in Sandwell Valley.

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London girl-band Stooshe were handed £2,500 for a set at the same event, while singer Charlie Healy, formerly of X Factor blowouts The Risk, performed for £150 travel money.

Ray Quinn at the Wednesbury lights switch-on

Last year the council also paid children’s author Shoo Rayner – author of Viking Vik and the Longship – £1,661 for six half-day author visits to schools around the borough.

Lib Dem campaigner Ian Jenkins, said: “In times of greater cut backs it appears that the public purse is still being ravaged by decisions taken public sector officials, sanctioned by our elected representatives.

“This total disregard for taxpayers money by paying extortionate appearance fees demonstrates how out of touch taxpayer funded bodies in the Black Country are with ordinary hard working people.

“The exposure of reckless spending when so many households face year on year council tax increases has to be welcomed.

“Thankfully, with the local elections in May, the electorate will have the opportunity the first step to right the wrongs and the many abuses by Labour of taxpayers money.”

Councillor Steve Eling, leader of Sandwell Council said: “The bulk of the money spent on celebrities was for events organised for young people.

“Young people are heavily involved in the organisation of these events and we take on board their wishes when it comes to spending the budget allocated for this.

“It's important we positively engage with young people and they are able to influence what the council provides for them.”

Dudley Council engaged the services of one celebrity over the period, paying Stourton-born Royal historian Kate Williams £1,000 to open an exhibition at the Red House Glass Cone in Stourbridge.

Wolverhampton council said it has not spent a penny on celebrity appearances from May 2014 onwards.

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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