Was cul­ture bid too costly, or too cheap?

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Expenses Row -

So, just how much was spent on the failed East Kent City of Cul­ture bid? The an­swer: £50,000, in con­tri­bu­tions of £10,000 each from Ash­ford, Can­ter­bury, Dover, Shep­way and Thanet coun­cils. Given that it failed to even make the long list, you could ar­gue that it was not enough.

The most in­ter­est­ing as­pect of the bill, de­tails of which were re­leased un­der the Freedom of In­for­ma­tion Act, was the in­volve­ment of “the ser­vices of Seven Hills on pro­mo­tion and ad­vo­cacy”.

That is the PR com­pany given a £250,000 con­tract by Kent County Coun­cil to pro­mote the “Grow For It” cam­paign in east Kent to boost jobs and in­vest­ment.

Given that all the coun­cils have PR de­part­ments, staffed by pro­fes­sion­als – why?

The break­down of the costs also itemises £2,000 for launch events. The me­dia seemed un­aware of any for­mal “launch” so we are not sure where this money went.

The power of the press. Af­ter Off The Record high­lighted the county coun­cil’s fix­a­tion with “multi agency hubs” in re­la­tion to al­most any­thing it does, it seems there may be ef­forts to wean it­self away from the habit.

So, plau­dits to Con­ser­va­tive cabi­net mem­ber Cllr Jenny Whit­tle who told her col­leagues she would from now on be re­fer­ring to “spe­cial­ist chil­dren’s cen­tres” for fear of be­ing “named and shamed” by yours truly.

Per­cep­tion is ev­ery­thing in pol­i­tics so the pro­posal by KCC to hike up the mileage al­lowance by a stonk­ing 47% re­ally does not come across well. The jus­ti­fi­ca­tion that mem­bers should not be out of pocket will hardly im­press vot­ers. Let’s hope that HRMC doesn’t de­cide to chase tax ar­rears, as it is en­ti­tled to.

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