Highland Council is to give Barclays Bank £33,000 towards staging the Scottish Open golf tournament near Inverness.
Critics say the expenditure is insensitive at a time when the elderly are struggling to pay bills and council services are being cut.
Council chiefs defended the move, insisting the tournament would reap huge economic dividends for the region.
Barclays is sponsoring the Open at the Castle Stuart Golf Links, overlooking the Moray Firth, from July 7-10.
The tournament has already had backing from other public bodies, including Highlands and Islands Enterprise and VisitScotland.
Sheila Mackay, of Highland Senior Citizens Network, said: “This is beyond belief. The council should have no role in funding a golf tournament. Golf is a multimillion-pound business, for goodness sake.
“This money is needed for social work, housing, environmental issues. Surely those are the priorities for this council.”
Lindsay Scott, of Age Scotland, said: “Wouldn’t it have been better looking for sponsorship from the bank to handle the promotion of the event rather than paying the bank to do it?”
The council’s opposition SNP group leader, John Finnie, said: “The Liberal Democrat-led administration thinks it’s appropriate to put 344 classroom assistants’ posts in jeopardy while pledging this ridiculous sum to a commercial event.
“It’s sponsored by Barclays Bank, five of whose managers have shared an obscene £110million in bonuses in the past few days whilst the bank laid off 700 staff.”
Fraser Parr, a Labour councillor and part of the administration, said: “I would rather have seen this money coming from the bank, who are the ones who’ve squandered millions of pounds on their directors.”
Stressing that the £33,000 had come from “existing budgets", council budget leader David Alston said: “Because we’re in this economic climate, getting this event in the Highlands is a major economic boost and this makes it absolutely right that we offer some level of support.”
Council leader and golf enthusiast Sandy Park said: “We, through the same budget, supported the downhill cycling championship at Fort William, which makes a massive amount of money, and the marathon.
“Are you saying we should stop sponsoring those events?
“I’m led to believe there’s not a vacant hotel room in Nairn thanks to the Scottish Open.”