Blackpool Council bailed out this year's Pride Festival with £68,000 of taxpayers' cash - here's how much it has clawed back

The council has recouped just £10,800 of the £68,000 given to the cash-strapped Pride Festival so far, it can be revealed.

Monday, 23rd December 2019, 10:40 am
Updated Monday, 23rd December 2019, 10:41 am

Taxpayers' money was handed out after ticket sales failed to cover the costs of the two-day LGBT event, which was held in June, leaving it in danger of being axed with little notice.

The authority said at the time it would work with organisers to get the money back, with £38,000 expected from sponsorship and other income, and £30,000 by turning a profit at future events.

But so far, just £8,000 has been recouped through sponsorship and £2,800 through "other income", the council told The Gazette in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, leaving an outstanding debt of £57,200.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Revellers in the Blackpool Pride Festival's parade, held on the Prom in June 2019 (Picture: Martin Bostock for JPIMedia)
Revellers in the Blackpool Pride Festival's parade, held on the Prom in June 2019 (Picture: Martin Bostock for JPIMedia)

The festival's organisers have yet to pay a penny back, though a £30,000 repayment plan is in place, the council said. It insists it will still recoup the full amount through future events.

"Planning for the 2020 event has already taken place and an announcement will be made shortly," the council's response to the FOI said.

A council spokeswoman refused to give details of the repayment plan and said she would be "surprised" if the details were to be released via a further FOI request, which The Gazette has since made.

Coun Simon Blackburn, the council's leader, said in July that Pride was an "important celebration of diversity not just for visitors but for our residents too", and said: "Stepping in to save this year's festival was absolutely the right thing to do."

He added: "A few days before the Pride Festival was due to take place, we learned that it was at risk of being cancelled. Once it became clear the event was in jeopardy, we agreed to make any outstanding payments for the staging of the festival and for the necessary security, site management, and health and safety requirements to be put in place to enable it to go ahead.

"I took part in the parade and, despite it blowing a gale, there were huge crowds lining the streets to celebrate diversity and the LGBT community.

"Cancellation would inevitably have impacted on visitors who had bought festival tickets and also those who had booked accommodation for the weekend, so many people would have been left disappointed.

"We will now work with the festival organisers in future years to help them create a sustainable event that is capable of returning a profit."

But his opposite number Coun Tony Williams, a veteran Conservative, said the council can "ill afford" to prop up "events that appear to be dwindling in appeal merely because they want to be seen to be offering a full calendar of entertainment in the town".

The Livewire Festival was also cancelled this year - for the second year running - and Coun Williams said: "We really need to start looking at the success of Lytham Festival, which celebrated its tenth year with an amazing line-up, which attracted more than 750,000 fans.

"Blackpool is supposed to be the entertainment capital of the UK but at the moment we can't seem to be able to organise an egg and spoon race.

"It's time we got some real promotional skills in place, before end of the pier karaoke because our main attraction."