No new light shone on Switch-On losses

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn (below), who answered questions before a council committee about this year's Switch-On event starring Gary Barlow.

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn (below), who answered questions before a council committee about this year's Switch-On event starring Gary Barlow.

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Blackpool’s town hall boss has been questioned by a council committee over losses suffered by this year’s Illumination’s Switch-On.

But the bid by opposition councillors to shine a light on the losses failed to throw up any new answers.

Blackpool council leader Simon Blackburn

Blackpool council leader Simon Blackburn

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn appeared before last night’s meeting of the finance and audit committee to respond to questions about his decision to make a payment to Children In Need in order to secure a performance by singing star Gary Barlow after Irish band The Script were forced to pull out.

Committee chairman Coun Peter Callow had asked Coun Blackburn to attend the meeting after it emerged losses from this year’s switch-on amounted to £372,109.

The Conservative group claims the deficit is council tax-payers’ money, but Coun Blackburn has maintained the deficit will be met by Marketing Blackpool – which is now set to be scrapped.

Coun Callow told the committee: “The current council decided to move away from the tried and tested format for the Lights Switch-On which had always been classed the greatest free show on earth.

“We had the likes of Top Gear and Robbie Williams doing it for free, and publicity like that is absolutely priceless.

“But the council decided to go commercial.

“Instead of free, they wanted visitors and council tax payers to pay £30.”

Coun Callow asked Coun Blackburn: “Do you accept that you were in charge of the finances?”

Coun Blackburn said as leader he “ultimately took responsibility for any action or inaction by the council including finances.”

Coun Paul Galley asked if it had been reasonable to expect Marketing Blackpool to make a profit in its first year running the Switch -On.

Coun Blackburn said: “The idea was that the Switch-On would cost less and less as the years went by.

“The intention was that we don’t want to be spending £160,000 a year every year on the Switch-On forever.”

The proposed transfer of Marketing Blackpool from an arms length organisation back in-house with the council is due to be considered by the executive on Monday.

It will see the council take over liabilities from Marketing Blackpool of £288,000 which town hall chiefs say will be met through efficiencies made by the taking it back in-house.

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