Blackpool's free attractions ticket ballot sparks anger from Tories

A council ballot offering free attraction tickets to Blackpool residents has come under fire amid claims it falls short of an election promise made by the ruling Labour administration.

By Shelagh Parkinson
Friday, 6th May 2022, 10:53 am

A free-to-enter ballot was launched on the council website on Friday April 29 with several thousand tickets available for a range of attractions and venues over the next 12 months.

But Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative opposition group on the council, branded the offer "a far cry from Labour's original promise".

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The ballot includes free tickets to The Tower

He said the offer failed to meet criteria laid down by former council leader Simon Blackburn when he made his pledge of free tickets ahead of the 2019 local elections.

He also questioned whether the scheme was being delivered at no cost to council tax payers, as also promised.

Coun Williams said: "Three years ago whilst campaigning for the upcoming local elections Blackpool Labour promised free attraction tickets for residents if they won.

Coun Tony Williams

"Many people fell for this promise and Labour were duly elected.

"At the time Coun Blackburn promised these free tickets, along with free parking, would be available in time for the 2020 season and that it wouldn't cost the tax payer or the council a single penny.

"Despite my ongoing criticism that they had failed on their promise, Labour continued to defend their statement.

"Now just 11 months from the 2023 local elections the council announces a free attraction ticket competition where residents who enter might be drawn out of a hat, and possibly win the tickets to the attractions of their choice or their alternative request.

Leader of Blackpool Council Lynn Williams

"That tells me that the tickets are limited and you may not get the tickets you want.

"This is a far, far cry from Labour's original promise. There was no mention of a free draw or there being limited number of tickets in fact there were no details of conditions at all just free attractions tickets for all residents."

In April 2019, just ahead of the May 2019 local elections, Coun Blackburn said if residents elected a Labour council they "will be able to enjoy a wide and growing list of attractions for free, including free parking, and it won’t cost the council tax payer a penny.”

The give-away includes 5,000 family tickets for Merlin attractions including at the council-owned Blackpool Tower; 1,250 family tickets for the council-owned Sandcastle Water Park; 500 tickets for Blackpool Zoo, plus tickets for Blackpool FC games, and events at the Winter Gardens and Grand Theatre.

There are conditions of use attached to some of the ticket offers.

Council leader Coun Lynn Williams said it was planned to launch the free ticket ballot in April 2020 but this was delayed due to the pandemic.

She said: "It has been launched now as this is the first time that all the attractions have been open restriction free since 2020.

“We are grateful to the venues and attractions who are giving residents an opportunity to experience some of what they have to offer and at no cost.

"We are so lucky to have so many wonderful venues in Blackpool, we want residents to attend events and visit places they would not normally."

Coun Williams said costs had been met in the same way as it would be for any town hall initiative.

She added: "Council officers have assisted us to deliver our manifesto pledge as part of their existing roles, this would be the same no matter who was the ruling party.

"We have already delivered on our pledges to build new homes and create new jobs, this is no different.”

When he made the pledge, Coun Blackburn said the thinking behind it was to create thousands of advocates for the resort by giving residents one free entry each to attractions.

It was hoped they would then share their experiences on social media and therefore promote the town in a positive way.