FULL STORY: Marketing Blackpool scrapped in shake-up

The crowd at Blackpool's Illuminations Switch-On 2013.
The crowd at Blackpool's Illuminations Switch-On 2013.
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Blackpool’s tourism company Marketing Blackpool is set to be scrapped – two years after it was set up.

Blackpool Council is proposing to wind up the company and bring the work back in-house.

The organisation was set up in November 2011 to encourage private sector investment into Blackpool, but continued to be wholly financed by the town hall.

But now it is believed it would be cheaper for the council to run the tourism service itself, although the move would mean the council taking over Marketing Blackpool’s £288,000 debt.

It comes after this year’s Switch-On event, described by critics as a “shambles”, suffered losses of £372,109 which included a six figure donation to Children In Need as requested by Gary Barlow, who stepped in at the last minute after Irish band The Script were forced to pull out.

The council said the proposal, which will be considered by the executive on November 11, was to save money.

But the changes have only been under consideration over the past two months –since Marketing Blackpool came under fire over the organisation of the Switch-On.

The move would mean staff at the organisation would be brought back into the council to be part of the Regeneration, Tourism and Culture Depart – and become part of the town hall workforce which is facing cuts as part of £16m of savings the council has to make.

In a statement, Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism and leisure, said: “During the last two years Marketing Blackpool has developed excellent links with the private sector.

“One of the most notable benefits of these relationships has been the resort pass.

“However at a time when the council is having to make £16m of savings we need to look at the most efficient way of running all aspects of our business.

“I believe bringing the company back in house will generate savings and I want to reassure local businesses and residents that our commitment to working with the private sector and jointly promoting Blackpool as a tourism destination remains as strong as ever.

“If the executive agree this proposal it will recommend to the full council meeting later in the month that they agree to transfer the company functions, assets and liabilities back into the council.

“At the moment that stands as a deficit of £288,000. We predict the savings made once the company is brought back in house will cover this deficit.”

Coun Cain refused to answer further questions from The Gazette on whether the decision was sparked by the Switch-On furore.

Tourism leaders in the town said tourism had to remain the priority.

Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said: “I thought Marketing Blackpool was doing a really good job, and I am always fearful when the politicians get involved.

“I liked the fact politics had been taken out of it to a degree.”

Iain Hawkins, head of Merlin in Blackpool, said: “It doesn’t really matter to me whether Marketing Blackpool is public or private as long as it is achieving its goals and ultimately driving visitor numbers to the resort.

“There have been some great successes this year, like the Blackpool Air Show, and it’s very important we continue to have a clear and distinct strategy for 2014.”

Shirley Hunt, of the Friends of the Illuminations, said: “Whatever happens, tourism still needs to be a priority for the council because the way Blackpool is marketed is absolutely key.”

Marketing Blackpool said it was not issuing a statement at this time.