£250,000 cycling “Departy” shambles finally admitted

Big loss on the Grand Departy

The Councils Executive will this week receive the final report into the 2014 Tour de France concert fiasco.

The Concert cost some £250,000 but attracted only around 1500 people to the Huntington Stadium

The report (click) makes salutary reading

It has subsequently turned out that this casual approach to spending taxpayer’s money was the tip of the iceberg with another recent report into the appointment of consultants also revealing that procurement rules were broken.

The Executive is being recommended to approve a series of recommendations aimed at preventing a repetition of the problems.

However, rather surprisingly, it appears that officials apparently do not want the following scrutiny committee proposals to be approved.

To ensure the risks associated with future major events are assessed and mitigated effectively:

vii. The event manual for each planned event must be prepared and supplied to the SAG and event management staff by the required pre-event deadline.

viii. For those events where ticket sales are required, to mitigate any associated financial risk, arrangements for monitoring ticket sales must be made before tickets go on sale and an effective method for the continuous assessment of sales against targets put in place. Any proposed price changes or special offers to boost sales must be assessed and agreed before implementation.

  1. Where an additional event is proposed to be run alongside an existing externally-originated programme, it must be agreed from the outset that this can be done and that no element of competition is anticipated.
Councillors would be wise to adopt all the investigation recommendations

That TdF concert flop

3 years later the Council finally admits what went wrong

£185,000 loss on the Grand Departy

The investigation report, into failings in the running of events connected with the Tour d France’s visit to York in July 2014, has finally been published.

It reveals a catalogue of poor management decisions and bad communications together with a risky approach to the use of taxpayer’s money.

An investigatory team say that neither the former Council Leader nor Chief Executive had been prepared to give evidence to their Inquiry.

The report is heavily critical of the process used to try to establish a camping site on Monk Stray.

The scale of public opposition to use of the area had been under-estimated while previous licensing and planning applications results had been ignored. Basic errors such as quoting the wrong post code for the site had gone undetected. In the end, the plan was abandoned with camping facilities concentrated near the Millennium Bridge

The focus of concern was the “Grand DeParty” concert. The Inquiry confirmed that the event was conceived as a fund raiser but was only formally agree as late as April 2014. It was announced that 10,000 tickets would be sold at £25 each producing a profit of £150,000.

However, the external management consultants said in April 20154 that it was “far too late for an event date of 4th July

Subsequently an external provider (Cuffe and Taylor) were engaged to organise the concert but using an approach which “was highly informal; there was no clear evidence of a tendering process and the arrangement breached CYC procurement rules”.

No waiver to the rules was obtained.

The report goes on to say,

The Task Group found no evidence of any analysis of where the concert audience might come from following the loss of the Monk Stray campers. Without that analysis, but concerned about preserving ‘our reputation as a city’, the Strategic Lead decided to continue with the concert after discussing this with the Chief Executive and others.

At this point, the emphasis changed from one of balancing the books to getting people to come.

From 10 June 2014, tickets were being sold at half price, and in the last few days; free tickets were offered to staff, partners and local armed forces personnel”.

The Task Group found that negative reports about the concert appeared in local print and broadcast media, besides being promoted by an excouncillor on social media.

This and poor ticket sales meant that attendance was very poor – press reports estimated this at around 1500, far below what had been hoped for. Officers later conceded in hindsight that the concert line-up was wrong and a mix that was intended to appeal to everyone in the end appealed to very few.

There were concerns about safety at the event, which were exacerbated by publication of the minutes of the SAG’s post-concert review meeting”.

“It was not clear where the political responsibility for the concert lay until sometime after the event”. The Inquiry concluded that the Council Leader James Alexander was accountable for the concert arrangements.

Most of those responsible have now left the York Council.

The Council has said that a new Project Management Framework will ensure that similar mistakes are not made in the future

Departee’d but not forgotten

Following a £185,000  loss on the Grand Departy  last year, the Council is now offering apprenticeships in "event management"

Grand Departee

How the York Council managed to lose £187,000 on the infamous “Grand Departee” concert staged in July 2014.

An independent audit has revealed the true level of the confusion and poor decision taking which surrounded the Grand Departee concert held at Monks Cross in July 2014

Although tAudit quote 1acked onto the TdF cycle race, the concert was in effect a stand-alone event.

The auditor’s report says that there was little documentary evidence to help their enquiry and many of the officers and members involved had subsequently left the Authority.

Most of the blame for the shambles is placed at the door of the last – Labour dominated –  “Cabinet”.

“It is concerning that officers were expected to undertake inherently risky commercial activity without a formal member decision”.

Although it has been estimated that the TdF injected £8.3 million into the local economy, little of this directly benefited taxpayers who picked up a total bill for £1.8 million.Audit quote 2

We pointed out at the time that the event was heading for a financial disaster

 It remains unclear why the Council failed to cut its losseson the event when it became clear that ticket sales were derisory.

So have the lessons been learnt?

TAudit quote 3he principle of open decision making with properly costed and monitored plans is probably the most important.

Perhaps the nearest current project with similar variables is the plan to establish a “Community Stadium” in the City. This also has grown like topsie with an initial zero taxpayer’s subsidy (other than the stadium site land) having grown to £8 million.

The inclusion of an additional swimming pool, which will in effect be in competition with the Yearsley pool, suggests that not all lessons have yet been embedded in Council thinking

Moment of truth on Grand Departy costs?

Angry mob - money back

After many delays, it looks like a decision will now be made on how to investigate the £187,000 loss that the last Council made on the Grand Departy concert.

There were also safety concerns raised about the event by an independent committee

The event took place in June 2014 but Labour Councillors – many of whom lost their seats in the May elections – tried every manoeuvre possible to avoid being held to account for the failures.

A similar situation exists on money wasted on the Lendal bridge/Coppergate closures and the failed wide area 20 mph project.

An all party scrutiny committee will consider what type of inquiry to conduct into the budget and project management of the York Councils Tour de France responsibilities.

The issue remains a live one as similar events may be suggested in the future. A Tour De Yorkshire event held at the beginning of May produced a mixed reaction from City Centre shopkeepers, several of whom blamed the event for untypically low Bank Holiday takings.

The report into the options available for the scrutiny of the issue can be read by clicking here. The meeting, which will be open to the public, takes place on 22nd June

In total the Tour de Yorkshire event cost local taxpayers £1.3 million.

Conservative and Labour councillors delay Grand Départy Inquiry

Liberal Democrat Councillors have criticised a decision to delay an inquiry into the Grand Departy‘ concert until after May’s Council elections.

Sparse crowd for  Grand Departy

Sparse crowd for Grand Departy

Sceptics expect many of those responsible for the financial disaster to stand down from the Council – or be defeated at the polls – meaning that they may escape the consequences of the their negligence.

Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Leisure, Culture and Tourism, had submitted a request for a review into the “planning, promotion and delivery” of City of York Council organised events for last year’s Tour De France.

These included the £187,000 loss-making ‘Grand Departy’ music concert at Huntington Stadium.

Originally, a review was given the green light last year. However, at this week’s Learning & Culture Overview and Scrutiny Committee Labour and Conservative councillors supported moves to delay the inquiry until after May’s local elections and after that month’s inaugural Tour De Yorkshire.

Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, commented:

Tour de France wash up report lacks candour

The Councils Cabinet and, later, scrutiny committee will be debating the final report on last years Tour De France event when they meet next week.

Tour De France launch dinner in Ripon Cathedral

Tour De France launch dinner in Ripon Cathedral

The report rightly highlights the positive benefits which the event produced. Not least among these were the 200,000 spectators in the City and the international publicity which the City received as well as an estimated £8 million injected into the local economy.

The latter figure is estimated and does not seek to relate benefits to the £1.8 million that the taxpayer paid for the event.

That was the largest amount that the York Council has spent on a single leisure event.  

To put it into context, a similar number of people visited the City for the “Royal Ascot at York” event held in 2005. That event cost taxpayers less than 10% of the TdF costs (with most costs relating to traffic management).

The reports are weakest in the areas which caused some local residents concern.

A much hyped claim was that merchandising, car parking and camping sales would produce a “profit” to off set costs. That simply didn’t happen.

Sparse crowd for  Grand Departy

Sparse crowd for Grand Departy

Many decisions such as the location of the event “hubs” were delayed before being imposed on unwilling neighbourhoods.

Some failures – post start entertainment and big screen blackouts – could have been avoided with better planning.

But the conspiracy of silence about the £180,000 Grand Departy decision making process remains the most significant outstanding issue. Only a passing reference is made to this event in the reports.

Hopefully the Scrutiny Committee meeting on Wednesday will finally insist on answers being given to the outstanding questions about the Grand Departy. When we know the answers, a more informed decision can be made about the level of public subsidy – if any – which should be given to the proposed “Tour de Yorkshire” (TdY).

Ironically that event is scheduled to hit the City on a busy bank holiday only 3 days before the Council elections are scheduled to take place.

York residents deserve to know all the facts before Council discussions are veiled by the start of the local election “purdah” period.

“Grand Departy” Inquiry agreed

Only minutes before the York Council Leader resigned, a Council scrutiny committee had agreed to hold an Inquiry into the Grand Departy shambles.

Sparse crowd for  Grand Departy

Sparse crowd for Grand Departy

The event lost £187,000.

Officials attending the meeting admitted that mistakes had been made.

The Culture Scrutiny committee agreed to look at the processes – including decisions on marketing and safety – connected with the event as well as the operation of the spectator hubs and camping arrangements.

All the opposition parties supported the review although two Labour Councillors at the meeting opposed holding an inquiry.

A report will also go to the Cabinet in January.

The meeting was held in public and can be viewed on the Council web cam.

Crunch meeting to decide on ‘Grand Départy’ Inquiry as cost of stilt walkers revealed.

Liberal Democrat calls for an inquiry into the ‘Grand Departy’ music concert are to be heard at crunch scrutiny meeting tomorrow.


Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Leisure, Culture and Tourism, last week submitted a request for a review into the “planning, promotion and delivery” of City of York Council organised events for the Tour De France, including the £187,000 loss-making ‘Grand Departy’ concert.

A decision on whether to proceed with the review will be taken at tomorrow’s Learning & Culture Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

Since the review request was submitted new concerns have emerged over public safety at the Grand Departy. Minutes from the July meeting of the council’s Safety Advisory Group (which took place just days after the event) have highlighted problems.

These included locked fire exits, blocked emergency exits and no licence to allow people to use covered seating areas. The Group said it would not support a similar event proposed at such late notice.

“Until these budget and safety issues are properly addressed many people will have little faith in the council to successfully run any large-scale cultural event.”

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

The meeting comes as the York Council has been forced to reveal more detailed costs of the Grand Departy. Details can be downloaded by clicking here. The papers reveal that the costs of the stage, amplification and lighting alone cost more than total ticket sale income.

The Council have also released details of how over £60,000 was spent on other aspects of the “cultural festival”. Click here to download

. Details of the scrutinty meeting can be found here: .

The Committee is made-up of 3 Labour councillors, 1 Lib Dem, 1 Conservative, 1 Green (Chair) and 1 Independent.

Cllr Cuthbertson, who will make the case for an inquiry at tomorrow’s meeting, commented: