Could levy fund Illuminations?

Blackpool's world-famous Illuminations
Blackpool's world-famous Illuminations
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Council chiefs could consider a levy on businesses as part of new ways of funding The Illuminations.

Pressure on spending means tourism chiefs are investigating options to protect all of Blackpool’s cultural services from future cuts.

One proposal put forward is to create a new arms-length company called Newco covering The Illuminations, Grundy Art Gallery, the arts service, visitor services, events and marketing, and the Leftcoast arts service.

Council officers are set to draw up a list of options as to how the company could be funded.

A bid for around £500,000 from the Arts Council has failed, but a report to Blackpool Council’s Shareholder’s Advisory Board says “an alternative option could instead use the establishment of a town-wide Business Improvement District as the primary vehicle, into which services could be incorporated.”

Blackpool’s current BID covers the town centre and raises money from a precept of one per cent of business rates.

This is spent on promotion, environmental measures and town centre events.

The BID could only be extended if agreement was reached following a ballot of businesses.

But the report says: “Extending the BID to cover the whole town would significantly increase the BID’s income.”

Alan Cavill (pictured), director of place at Blackpool Council, told the meeting; “The resources of local authorities are going in the wrong direction, and many of the things we are talking about putting into this company are funded on a discretionary basis by the local authority.

“We need to investigate further ways of raising money so we can do things like invest in the Illuminations and run an art gallery.”

Committee chairman Coun Ivan Taylor warned the council had to prioritise spending on statutory services meaning it was imperative new ways were found to pay for other facilities.

He said: “Although the Illuminations are critical to us, what we are concerned about is that as far as the government is concerned, they are a discretionary service.

“So we have to find a way of bring all these services relating to culture under on umbrella, and look at the options around funding them.”

The report adds a structure for Newco based around the BID “could potentially deliver a sustainable business plan”. It says a final option would be “to continue with current arrangements”, but warns the council would “inevitably be faced with questions over how it could continue to support non-statutory services”.