In the true TPA spirit, our supporters have clearly been keeping their eyes peeled recently for profligate spending in their local public sector. Yesterday, we featured a picture taken at a petrol pump of some dubious Business Link West Midlands advertising; today it’s an article from the Kentish Gazette, sent to our offices by a fed-up activist.
The headline reads “Row over council’s £40,000 trip to the golf Open”, and refers to Canterbury City Council’s planned visit to St. Andrews in Scotland for the Open Championship golf later this month. Staff will be setting up a ‘huge Kent branded-stand’ on the sidelines in order to promote the area who’ll be hosting next year’s championship. But local hoteliers have complained that this is a waste of time and ultimately a costly jolly for local government staff as they’re already packed to the rafters for the event next year and couldn’t take another booking.
David Sharma, the owner of Howlfield Manor Hotel in Chartham, told the paper:
“There will be no accommodation available anywhere near Canterbury while the golf is on, so what is the point of going to St Andrews to promote accommodation? Even the hotels in South London will be full during the tournament.
This trip has all the hallmarks of a jolly for those people going. And given that there are going to be cutbacks in public services, going up to Scotland to watch the golf seems even more wasteful”.
Council spokesperson Rob Davies defended the trip saying:
“The city council has made a total contribution of £40,000, spread over two years, towards staging the Open golf in east Kent next year.
This spending has nothing to do with jollies and hospitality, as some people were suggesting during our budget consultation last year, and everything to do with maximising what is a great opportunity to promote the area to a worldwide audience.”
He goes on to say that they’ll also have a presence at Royal Lytham in 2012, though – bizarrely – Kent will already have staged the event by then. More importantly though, with pricey tickets, impressive prize money and altogether world class production values do Open Championship organisers really need a £40,000 ‘contribution’ from the humble local taxpayer?
In truth, if Canterbury City Council want to promote Kent to a worldwide audience then they needn’t spend a penny or lift a finger. Not only are their hotels booked out for the length of the event by visitors of all kinds, but next summer they’ll be descended upon by hoards of international media, all with their cameras firmly trained on the county, not to mention the celebrities and dignitaries who’ll gather there as spectators and, indeed, players.
What the council seem to have missed is that one of the huge benefits of attracting an enormous event like this is supposed to be that it’s free international publicity. The golf attracts the people (which it already has) and the media, and the coverage attracts people from across the world to visit the location. Who or what a couple of trestle tables in St. Andrews will attract we can't be sure, but it truly beggars belief that this bumbling local authority have decided to fritter taxpayers money on this utterly futile promotion.