Leeds mayor's gifts cutback

The tough economic climate has left many of us tightening the purse strings - but even the Lord Mayor of Leeds has been counting the pennies.

Councillor James McKenna has so far presented a fraction of the number of gifts to national and foreign visitors - and members of the local community - than previous city mayors.

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Between April and November 2010, he spent more than 300 on presents, such as owl lapels priced at 45p each, 27p leather bookmarks and keyrings at 1.22.

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Birthdays were celebrated, with two centenarians each given a 5.85 Wedgewood coaster, and a third receiving a Leeds plate carrying the same price tag.

A civic visit to Ireland - Coun McKenna's birthplace - cost around 100 in wall shields, whisky tumblers, a crystal paperweight, keyrings and bookmarks.

The meagre total was a fraction of the money that has previously been spent on foreign dignitaries.

In 2005/06, Lord Mayor Coun William Hyde spent more than 1,500 on overseas guests, including visitors from America, Canada, China, Japan, Malta, Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Ukraine, Australia and Africa.

Between 2,000 and 2,500 was spent each financial year on gifts from 2005 to 2008. That figure was halved when the recession hit in 2008.

Last year, Coun Judith Elliott spent just 831 in 12 months.

Stephen McHugh, secretary to the Lord Mayor of Leeds, said: "If there are visitors to Leeds and they bring gifts to the city then the Lord Mayor is expected (to return the gesture].

"We present gifts at 100th birthdays or significant anniversaries but that's really it.

"We don't give an awful lot of gifts and they are reasonably priced. They are not extravagant."

A council spokesman added: "The Lord Mayor of Leeds performs a very important and beneficial ceremonial role - engaging with communities, meeting national and foreign dignitaries and presenting the public face of the city to the world.

"The costs of this, and of the Lord Mayor, have been reduced significantly over the past few years and we continue to look at ways to save and ensure the Lord Mayor's office is value for money."

The Yorkshire Evening Post revealed this week that the Lord Mayor's office costs the city more than 300,000 a year.