Birmingham is set to end subsidies to attract party conferences to the city – meaning Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will look elsewhere.
The city will not host another major political party conference before the 2015 General Election – meaning a huge loss of revenue from delegates and a blow to efforts to raise the city’s profile.
A hugely successful Conservative Party conference held this week has seen 13,500 party activists, lobbyists and the world’s media descend on Birmingham.
The Tory gathering ends a run of eight party meetings in five years – including the Conservative autumn conferences in 2008, 2010 and this year and the 2011 Liberal Democrat conference.
Instead the three main parties are set to spend next October in Glasgow, Brighton and Manchester, and in 2014 both the Tories and Lib Dems plan to go to Liverpool, with Labour just along the M62 in Manchester.
But the Birmingham Post understands a key factor in attracting parties to the city had been a discount for use of the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Broad Street. This was covered by a subsidy from the city council-funded Marketing Birmingham, thought to be worth between £1 million and £1.5 million.
But now council bosses are conducting a review of the events budget and sources have told the Post they cannot justify the subsidy at a time when grass roots services are being starved of money.
There is a feeling that party conferences only serve an elite, made up of politicians, lobbyists and business people and the money could be better spent elsewhere.
But others point out that the money eventually trickles down through the employment and business these events create.
At the same time political party members have grumbled that staying in Birmingham can be expensive compared to seaside resorts or northern cities. Seaside towns in particular have hundreds of cheap bed and breakfast places in October.
Conservative Mike Whitby, who as city council leader oversaw negotiations to bring the recent run of conferences to Birmingham, said he would ‘move heaven and Earth’ to bring more in if he was still in control.
He said: “The city is rightly recognised as one of the best cities to hold party political conferences. We have attracted the parties of the Coalition Government to Birmingham for the last three years.