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

Graffiti presents poor image of York

Graffiti at entrance to Fossgate car park

Graffiti at entrance to Fossbank car park

Graffiti at entrance to York - Selby cycle track

Graffiti at entrance to York – Selby cycle track










Graffiti is unfortunately the first thing that some visitors to our City see. The entrances to the Fossbank shoppers car park are particular blackspots.

We think that – as well as getting the graffiti cleaned off quickly – the authorities should install cameras aimed at identifying and prosecuting  those who are disfiguring the City

Meanwhile signs (below) are still displayed in Goodramgate giving directions to the Tour de France start.

This event concluded over 2 years ago and the signs add little to the streetscape in what is a Conservation Area.

Commemorative plaque or just forgot to take the sign down?

Commemorative plaque or just forgot to take the sign down?

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.

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.

Pressure for inquiry into “Grand Departy” £187,000 flop grows

Sparse crowd for  Grand Departy

Sparse crowd for Grand Departy

Councillors are being pressured to hold a scrutiny inquiry into the Huntington Stadium concert – held on 4th July – which looks likely to cost York taxpayers £187,000.

The event was tagged onto the Tour De France but major questions remain unanswered about how –and why – the concert came to be added to a sports event programme.

Bills now available for scrutiny on the Council web site suggest that an event management company, based near Blackpool, was given the contract to organise the event.

Any inquiry is likely to look carefully at the tender arrangements and content of the event contracts.

Private meeting notes will be scrutinised with one key question being why no decision to cancel was taken, with tickets sales in the low hundreds, only a couple of weeks before the event was due to be staged?

When originally launched, the York Council had talked of 10,000 attending the concert.

Some tickets were heavily discounted. Councillors are likely to ask for details of any free tickets given away by organisers and Council officials.

The review might also look at the arrangements for buying and selling merchandise, while the £33,000 loss on “camping” arrangements may also be probed.

Any involvement by York in the proposed “Tour de Yorkshire”” is likely to be dependant on satisfactory answers being provided at a “Grand Departy” inquiry.

The Tour de Yorkshire is due to take place just 4 days before Council elections are held in the City

York party bill could cost taxpayers over £100,000

Sparse crowd for  Grand Departy

Sparse crowd for Grand Departy

The York Council is resisting attempts to discover the true cost of the Tour de France party (“Departy”) that it held at the Huntington Stadium.

It has invoked a littler known clause in the Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation which allows it to withhold information if a report on the issue is due to be considered by a Council committee.

It invoked the same legislation a couple of years ago to delay the publication of bus service reliability statistics in the City (although the subsequently report, when it did appear 6 months later, actually gave very little new information on the issue).

The Council has, however, confirmed that the budget for the event was a whopping £220,000 and that they hoped to generate income of £260,000.

It appears that the income figures were based on selling around 10,000 tickets at a face value of £25.

The Council have refused to say how much income was generated for ticket sales although this figure must be known by now. The responsible Councillor (Crisp) also refused to answer questions posed at the last Council meeting about the event.

In the end only a thousand or so spectators turned up, hence the concern that taxpayers will have a large bill to pick up.

There was no public discussion of the advisability of holding such an event or of the risks that taxpayers might face.

If the promised report is not published on 1st September then the matter can be referred to the Information Commissioner. The Commissioner has been ruling against the York Council on an increasing number of occasions during the last couple of years and some enforcement action may now be in prospect.

Interestingly there is no entry on the Councils forward plan covering a review of the Departy or indeed any other aspect of the Tour de France programme

NB. A FOI request about library services in York was recently refused on the grounds that the service is now run by an independent company. Other services like the Museums Trust have also been taken out of the reach of FOI requests over the years with several other partnership bodies in a grey area.

We believe that any body which relies for a significant part of its income from the York Council taxpayer, should voluntarily apply FOI protocols to the information that it holds.

York “Grand Departy” budget was £228,000.

A response to a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the budgeted costs of putting on the Grand Departy concert at the Huntington Stadium on July 4th was £228,000.

Sparse crowd for  Grand Departy

Sparse crowd for Grand Departy

The Council have so far refused to say how much the concert actually cost or what income was received.

Further FOI requests have been submitted but it seems that the Council – which must know by now how much the event cost – are going to hold out until the end of September before providing details.

The Concert was advertised as having a capacity of 10,000 but only a thousand or so turned up with many of the £25 tickets having to be heavily discounted.

It looks like the Council will say all decisions were taken on the delegated authority of one of its Directors although the FOI response does confirm that Cabinet members were fully informed  about the events progress at each stage.

Well fancy that – forgetful York Councillor has flash back

Given a medal for “leadership”

Cllr Crisp declaration list 7th July 2014 click to enlarge

Cllr Crisp declaration list 7th July 2014 click to enlarge

It seems that we were wrong earlier in the month when we praised Cllr Crisp for giving up her party lifestyle.

In a hurried change to the Declaration of Interests, which every Councillor must update each month, she has now recalled an event which took place in Durham last November.

She admits receiving hospitality at a Lumeire event organised by the Durham Council. What benefits York gains from social events like these is open to question.

What is not open to any doubt is that Councillors with a poor record keeping history need to be especially careful about transparency in their actions .

The latest list does reveal that Cllr Crisp claims to have led on organising the York stage of the Tour de France – for which she has received a “medal”!

Cllr Crisp declaration list 28th July 2014 click to enlarge

Cllr Crisp declaration list 28th July 2014 click to enlarge

Presumably she will now accept responsibility for those elements of the event – like the Grand Departy – which didn’t go so well?

We are fortunate, though, in having someone in charge of leisure who spends so much time undertaking research at York Races.

No doubt she will be putting forward views on how the alcohol fuelled violence, seen in the City over the weekend, can be better controlled in future?

Don’t know Councillor blames Director for “Grand Departy” flop

Cllr Crisp is trying to blame a senior York Council official for the “Grand Departy” failure.

Sparse crowd for  Grand Departy

Sparse crowd for Grand Departy

Despite featuring heavily in the pre publicity for the event – when it was assumed that it would be a success – Cllr Crisp now says the decision to hold the concert was taken under delegated powers  by the Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods.

At the last Council meeting the Councillor also said that she didn’t know how much the concert had cost.  

However the figures will emerge through a Freedom of Information request unless the Council publishes them voluntarily.