One council appeared to save hundreds of thousands of pounds on the Olympic Torch Relay by getting Olympic organisers LOCOG to pay their costs – but for six months they have denied having any records of how that happened. Carol Miers reports on the curious case of Somerset County Council.
Hartlepool Council have defended their decision to fund part of the Olympic Torch Relay with money intended for a maritime festival.
“The Maritime Festival had a budget of £35,000 and officers say around 10 per cent of that, plus external sports funding, covered the £10,000 cost of hosting the Olympic Torch.
[A council spokesman said] “The bulk of the Maritime Festival budget was spent on staging the Diamond Festival, a celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which took place on the weekend of June 2/3 – two weeks prior to the arrival of the torch.
“The subsequent decision to end the Maritime Festival was part of the council’s wide-ranging strategy to deal with Government budget cuts and it had nothing whatsoever to do with the money spent on hosting the Olympic Torch.”
The Press Association has picked up on the costs of the Olympic torch relay as it reports on the anniversary of the start of the event
Dozens of regional newspapers across the UK have published the newswire story on the “£6m cost of Olympic torch relay” – first revealed on Help Me Investigate following Freedom of Information requests by contributors including Carol Miers, Juliet Ferguson, Jess Denham and Steve Walker.
The article says that ”figures were obtained by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act.”
The Stoke Sentinel and Huddersfield Examiner have reported on Freedom of Information requests from Help Me Investigate about torch relay spending.
This is Staffordshire report on the £189,730 cost of the relay to Stoke-on-Trent City Council, while The Huddersfield Daily Examiner’s Linda Whitwam asks “Was [the £56,000 cost] worth it?” Continue reading
128 public authorities spent a combined £5.5m on staging the Olympic torch relay, according to the latest figures being compiled by Help Me Investigate users.
The figure – based on Freedom of Information requests to local councils and police bodies – adds a further £1m to the costs identified based on a survey of 100 authorities in February, and further supports the estimate of a national cost at over £13m. Continue reading
The Sutton Guardian have reported on local spending on the Olympic torch relay disclosed as part of Help Me Investigate’s investigation.
Mike Pyle writes that the local council paid £9,000 for the torch’s journey through the area. This covered stewards, barriers, road closures, road signs, St John Ambulance staff, street cleaning and publicity.
Those costs combined came to less than a fifth of the cost of bunting in the area, one of the highest in the country: £50,000 was used from another local government body to fund the decorations.
Apologies for not publishing this earlier, but we have also been publishing the data on public spending on the torch relay in The Guardian Datablog. You can find it here.
The Leicester Mercury’s Dan Martin reports on torch relay spending in the county:
“The council said it footed a bill of £102,641 when the torch came to the city last July. Most of that, £81,560, was spent on a giant party in Abbey Park, attended by about 20,000 people to celebrate the torch’s arrival.
“The rest was spent on closing the roads, crowd barriers, security, and first aid provision as the torch entourage passed through the city.
“Leicestershire County Council told the Mercury it spent £29,600 on traffic management and staffing as the torch passed through the county in July and during a rehearsal for the relay in April.
“Leicestershire Police said it cost them £103,629 in staffing and overtime to supervise the rehearsal event and the real thing.”
The figures tally with data we’ve published on councils’ spending on the relay. Leicester City Council were one of the biggest spenders in the country.
The figures given to the Mercury, however, omit to mention that the total costs before external funding and income were much higher, at around £150,000. Curiously, the city did not seem to have received any funding from LOCOG for hosting a dress rehearsal for the Olympic organisers.
“Birmingham City Council spent over £16,000 on letters to residents when the Olympic torch relay came through the region – almost as much as it spent on road closures.
“Birmingham’s costs, including £9,000 for security, came to £43,000.
“Neighbouring Walsall spent just under £22,000 on their leg of the relay, despite it spending less than three hours in the region, with security costs coming to £11,000 and a further £2,220 spent on staff overtime.”
By Carol Miers, Juliet Ferguson and Paul Bradshaw
Funds intended for maritime festivals, economic development, council reserves and food markets were among pots which were raided to pay for torch relay bills, according to an investigation by Help Me Investigate users.
The details come from almost 100 Freedom of Information requests to local authorities by Carol Miers and Juliet Ferguson. They reveal that over £4m was spent by respondents to meet Olympic organisers’ requirements for hosting the events. If the figures are representative, the total bill across the UK could top £13m.
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