Business leaders and politicians have urged the head of Blackpool Council to accept the ‘help’ being offered by the organiser of Lytham Proms for next year’s Lights Switch-On.
As revealed in yesterday’s Gazette, council leader Simon Blackburn and Lytham Proms’ boss Peter Taylor became embroiled in a heated e-mail exchange when Coun Blackburn refused to meet Mr Taylor, who wants to stage next year’s Switch-On.
Coun Blackburn was angered because Mr Taylor labelled this year’s show, which left council organisers with losses of more than £372,000, “a shambles”.
But the leader of the council’s opposition group has urged Coun Blackburn to stop burying his “head in the sand” and accept the offer.
Coun Tony Williams said: “Coun Blackburn is in no position to refuse anyone who wants to help repair some of the damage that was caused by this year’s Illumination’s Switch-On.
“I haven’t met Mr Taylor personally but I understand Lytham Proms has been a success for many years.
“Coun Blackburn should be looking everywhere possible to make sure the next Switch-On returns to its former glory instead of the debacle we had this year.
“I certainly wouldn’t bury my head in the sand hoping this would go away.”
A total of 4,824 people attended last Friday’s Switch-On, which saw Take That frontman Gary Barlow perform and TV’s Jonathan Ross turn on the Illuminations.
Around 10,000 attended the two-day event in total.
But Coun Blackburn told The Gazette: “Coun Williams doesn’t think – he just talks.
“I am refusing Peter Taylor’s ‘help’ for the reasons I have previously set out.”
Meanwhile, Mick Burbage, owner of Bispham-based Burbage Holiday Group, which operates apartments in Blackpool, called for more businesses to work on the Switch-On with the council.
He said: “We really do need some business people on the Marketing Blackpool board.
“The idea of charging was right but the pricing policy was wrong.
“ It should’ve been tiered pricing so people could’ve stood at the back for a cheaper ticket.”
Despite the shows themselves winning much praise for the quality of acts and the staging, the low crowds and financial loss has sparked anger.
Organisers Marketing Blackpool were hit by the last minute cancellation of Irish headliners The Script.
Gary Barlow stepped in to save the day. He played in return for a donation to Children In Need.
Marketing Blackpool and the council will now meet to discuss options for next year.
Music giant MTV has already expressed an interest in being involved.
Martin Heywood, director of Viva Blackpool, on the Promenade, said: “The council does need help and (Proms organisers) Cuffe & Taylor do get the numbers in and do well with their event.
“Coun Blackburn needs to hold his hands up and look at what hasn’t gone right and bring in a partner that can provide events.”
However, Robin Ross, a Fylde coast businessman and artist, says people should let the council and Marketing Blackpool get on with the job of organising next year’s Switch-On.
He said: “What people need to do is stop spitting their dummies out.
“We have 12 months to look at this and I imagine there are a lot of talks going on and we should be supporting them.
“It’s all right saying someone should come in but there’s a cost involved with that as well.”
No resignation from council tourism chief
Under-fire tourism boss Coun Graham Cain is being backed by Blackpool Council despite calls for his resignation.
Demands were made after he claimed, in The Gazette, 20,000 people attended the Switch-On weekend – double the actual attendance figure.
But Coun Simon Blackburn said: “Coun Cain is one of the hardest-working and most effective members of the council, who enjoys my full confidence, and that of the Labour group. He is in no way responsible for any of the decisions taken by the company in relation to this event.
“Circumstances do not exist in which I would even consider, never mind accept his resignation.
“Marketing Blackpool will have to stand these losses, and council services will not be impacted.”
Town hall boss: Apology ‘is not appropriate’
The leader of Blackpool Council said his authority had nothing to apologise for.
The Gazette’s website has been inundated with readers who have demanded the council – and its tourism arm Marketing Blackpool – admit they got the Switch-On wrong due to the £34 price of tickets.
A total of 10,015 people turned up to the two-day event to see Gary Barlow and Jonathan Ross last Friday night and Madness the following day.
The event cost £775,000 to stage, but only made an income of £402,891 – meaning a loss of £372, 109.
But Coun Blackburn told The Gazette he would not be apologising.
He said: “I am not a director of Marketing Blackpool, and as such it would not be appropriate, logical or fitting for me to apologise.”
Meanwhile, rumours on internet forums have suggested members of the Marketing Blackpool board quit after Switch-On.
Marketing Blackpool MD Natalie Wyatt, town hall boss Alan Cavill and the Pleasure Beach’s Amanda Thompson are among those replaced by Coun Christian Cox, Crown Leisure’s Craig Hemmings and former Mayor of Blackpool Coun Allan Matthews.
The new secretary is Mark Towers.
The Gazette understands these scheduled changes of personnel were completed on August 14 – two weeks before Switch-On.