Council reveals total cost of Olympic event

Scarborough Open Air Theatre plays host to the Olympic flame journey. Olympic torch bearer Jamie Green poses with distinguished guests.  Picture Richard Ponter   122503f
Scarborough Open Air Theatre plays host to the Olympic flame journey. Olympic torch bearer Jamie Green poses with distinguished guests. Picture Richard Ponter 122503f

More than £20,000 was splashed out staging a council-organised event celebrating the arrival of the Olympic Torch to Scarborough.

In total, £20,296 was spent on the two hour-plus lunchtime show on June 18 at the Open Air Theatre, which was organised by the council in partnership with Welcome to Yorkshire.

Figures obtained by The Scarborough News have revealed that among the spending, £525 was spent preventing travellers from having “access to the car parks”.

A cost breakdown also showed that £1,165 was spent on hiring toilets, £1,002 on a marquee to accommodate the crew on their lunch break, and £1,447 to hire a “health and safety specialist” for the one-off event.

Cllr Derek Bastiman helped bring the torch through Scarborough. He defended the figures, adding that Scarborough Council had “no control” over what a lot of the money was spent on, adding that the council “were dictated to very strongly over what we could and could not do” by the Olympic Games Organising Committee.

And on the likelihood of travellers interrupting the event, he said: “It was a very serious risk - I made a statement that was taken to the magistrates’ court, as they would have taken over the car park and stopped people’s enjoyment of the day.

“They were there last year - that’s why we took the injunction out first.

“Our friends the travellers have already descended on the area now and if you ride about you will see the less than tidy state of things.

“We took a proactive measure to go to the magistrates’ court to get an order to prevent them going up.”

Figures obtained from other councils show that, per head, Scarborough spent up to four times as much on their public celebration than similar-sized authorities.

For example, Eastbourne Council in East Sussex, which is home to around 96,000 people, spent only £3,000-5,000 on their event.

Comparatively, Scarborough Council covers approximately 100,000 people throughout the borough.

However, despite that, Cllr Bastiman said he would be “quite happy to answer any criticism” over the spending.

He said: “They may be of similar population sizes but before we go into the nitty gritty, do they have an Open Air Theatre to house 6,500 people?

“We had to employ marshals and provide entertainment for everyone.

“Alright, we could have done that on a shoestring and they could have ran around Scarborough sea front and nobody would have turned out.

“To me it was money well spent.”

The council had set out an initial budget of £20,000 for the event, to mark what Cllr Bastiman called a “once-in-a-lifetime” chance to see the Olympic Torch pass through the town.

Despite going over that budget at first, the council have since recouped £1,095 through the re-sale of merchandise, leaving them £798 under budget.

As the figures were amassed before final invoices were received, the final figures may still change.

And asked if he feels the public believe the event was value for money, Cllr Bastiman was unwavering in his defence of the event.

“I have no doubt - it was more than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it was a great day and everybody enjoyed it, and that was quite obvious when the torch came into the theatre.”