Council leader says no to Proms boss over switch-on

Switch-On star Jonathan Ross turns on the Lights. Below: Peter Taylor and Coun Simon Blackburn.
Switch-On star Jonathan Ross turns on the Lights. Below: Peter Taylor and Coun Simon Blackburn.
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Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn has refused to meet the organiser of Lytham Proms to talk about the running of next year’s Switch-On event.

It came in an email exchange where Peter Taylor – joint organiser of the annual three-day Proms event– requested talks.

Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor

He says had the council allowed his company Cuffe & Taylor to hold the event it “would NOT have lost”.

This was in reference to the £372,000 loss incurred by this year’s Switch-On weekend – the first one which charged for tickets, priced at £34 each.

Mr Taylor went on: “We would like to present a proposal, with a trusted media partner, to the council as an alternative Switch-On concert for 2014.”

However, in his one line email response, as shown to The Gazette, Coun Blackburn said: “Mr Taylor, given all that you have had to say in the media recently – no.”

Coun Simon Blackburn

Coun Simon Blackburn

In Monday’s Gazette, Mr Taylor, who was heavily critical of the organisation of the event, labelled the Switch-On “a shambles”.

Replying to the council leader, Mr Taylor said: “Your response staggers me, but does not surprise me.

“Surely you have a responsibility to your electorate to seek best value, and given the issues experienced over the weekend, which I believe are only the tip of the iceberg, you have a duty and obligation to meet with us?”

He added: “Surely healthy debate and discussions are needed to move forward.”

Coun Blackburn then replied: “Mr Taylor, I have nothing further to add. The fact that you send such a response, having taken such little time to consider what I said, simply strengthens my resolve.”

Mr Taylor replied: “I suppose we now take our proposal to the electorate and use political means to get a meeting.”

Coun Blackburn then responded: “Indeed you can call yourself The Switch-On Party – has a nice ring to it.”

Some have suggested Mr Taylor has been overly critical of this year’s Switch-On night – which attracted a crowd of 4,824 compared to the usual 15,000 to 20,000 audience for the free concert which in years gone by have been backed by a major broadcast partner.

And there is history between Cuffe & Taylor and the council’s tourism arm Marketing Blackpool.

The Lytham-based events company complained about a tendering process after it was denied the chance to bid for the contract to install the stage on the Tower Festival Headland which was used by Elton John, The Wanted and McFly concerts in June 2012.

Cuffe & Taylor said the contract should have been advertised by the council.

A Government inquiry recommended the council openly advertise contracts in future.

After that decision Mr Taylor said: “As far as we are concerned we will not be putting events on at the Tower Festival Headland again. We are looking at other projects in Blackpool, at other venues.”

However, Mr Taylor has now made it clear he wants to take over the running of Switch-On.

When asked about the email conversation between himself and Mr Taylor, Coun Blackburn told The Gazette: “I struggle to take seriously any businessman or woman whose first port of call when seeking a working relationship with the council is to tell the media they think the council is a shambles.

“I further struggle to take seriously anyone who, not getting what they want, immediately forwards emails to the local newspaper.

“Procedures for tendering for council business are very clearly set out in both British and EU law.”

Meanwhile, the council’s tourism chief Coun Graham Cain was today facing growing calls for his resignation after his claims, earlier this week, that 20,000 attended both Switch-On nights.

Tory leader Coun Tony Williams said: “This is totally unacceptable. His position is now untenable.

“He should do the honourable thing and stand down before he causes Blackpool any further embarrassment.”

Coun Blackburn said the authority would now meet Marketing Blackpool officials to discuss plans for the future.

Facts and figures from this year’s Switch-On

A statement released by Marketing Blackpool revealed the first pay-to-view Switch-On event came at a loss of £372,109.

4,824 people attended Friday’s Switch-On which starred Gary Barlow and TV’s Jonathan Ross.

Saturday’s second gig pulled in a crowd of 5,191.

Free Switch-Ons attracted crowds of between 15,000 to 20,000 people.

Marketing Blackpool says it is in talks with TV channel MTV in relation to next year’s event.

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