Versa | Oxford University received taxpayer money so renewable energy activists could get pissed

The University received over £4,000 from taxpayers to run a conference on renewable energy earlier this year – with the majority of the cash going on “hospitality”. 

Figures show that £2,793.50 was spent on hospitality at the OxFutures “Action on Energy” event, held on University premises in January (specifically, the Said Business School, funded to the tune of £70m by billionaire financier Wafic Said). Further sums of money were handed over by the Council to the University, including £230 for “furniture and equipment”, despite the taxpayer being considerably more cash-poor than the likes of Mr Said. 

Said Business School: Mr Said didn’t cough up on this occasion

The conference agenda, downloadable here, shows that when the invited dignitaries weren’t enjoying the almost £2,800 worth of hospitality on offer they were instead listening to speakers from Oxfordshire’s carbon-cutting campaign circles.

One such big name was Tim Stevenson OBE, the county’s Lord-Lieutenant, who apparently “wants to help create cross-fertilisation between the many low carbon initiatives across the county and start a dialogue around an OxFutures vision”. Six similarly eminent speakers then gathered for a discussion on “cross-sectorial partnerships”, which is presumably a fancier way of saying they wanted to team up. 

The jargon-fest ended at 5pm, but not until delegates in Seminar Room A had come up with the best way to “mobilise new investment that solves problems and delivers positive outcomes”. By this stage, everyone was probably dying to get stuck into the best bits of £2,793.50 worth of hospitality, so the party really got started with “Drinks and networking” from 5pm until 6.30.

How much “hospitality” could £2,793.50 buy you?

  • 103-and-a-bit bottles of Andre Carpentier non-vintage champagne
  • 800 bottles of mulled wine to warm you up when the Sun goes behind the clouds and fucks up your solar panel
  • 31,925 Tesco mini sausage rolls
  • And exactly 2,793 and a half bottles of Blue WKD from Sainsbury’s. Somehow, it seems unlikely Tim Stevenson OBE and his colleagues were getting smashed on WKD as they networked and connected over renewable energy, but you never know

It wasn’t just hospitality that taxpayers shelled out cash for. The council also paid the University a mysterious £2,065.00 for the vaguely-titled “General contracting services”. Curiously, the University also received £230 for “Furniture and equipment purchase”, despite the Said Business School being widely known as one of Oxford’s premier conference venues. Indeed, its website claims that it is filled with state-of-the-art facilities. “All lecture theatres feature user-friendly touch panel controls allowing dual projection of media along with radio microphones and interactive podiums”, and the School also provides flip charts in break-out rooms, WiFi, and white boards.

Oxford University as an organisation did not participate in the event, but it was officially listed as the recipient of the funds in excerpts from Oxford City Council’s accounts. OxFutures has held other events in the city since this one, including an event in the Town Hall in September, and has received millions of pounds in funding from the European Union.