Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Penzance town council and what it costs you and Golowan

I thought I'd highlight some of the funding of the town council. Party due to the fact that I want to open up local government and try to explain it as I learn of it. Partly, sadly because some people don't seem to like the Golowan festival and the funding it receives from the council. Each to his and her own I suppose. It should be noted a couple of things, firstly the budget was set in April before the elections (quite why they do it this way and not by the new administration/ councillors is puzzling). Town and parish councilors are not paid for their work and their time. Generally there is a commonly held view that the more local the level and the smaller and the more efficient it is. Certainly when you consider what tax you pay, council tax, income tax, national insurance, VAT, fuel duty, alcohol and tobacco duty etc etc it's easier to trace where it's spend on the local authorities, than it is on the apparent money pit of Whitehall.

pic from http://www.purelypenzance.co.uk/thetown/festivals.html


The split of council tax is 84% to Cornwall Council, 11% to Devon and Cornwall police and 5% to the town or parish council. The bulk of the money goes to Cornwall Council, the police are next up then in our case Penzance town council. So the average council tax is around £1500 pa, £1260 goes to Cornwall £75 of this goes to Penzance and £165 to pay for the police. So where does Penzance's share of this money go? Well here's a picture of the form sent out with every council tax bill at the start of the financial year:


The net cost therefore of Golowan is £26,120 for this financial year down from £32,550 last year. To put that in real terms, about 5% of the precept of Penzance town council is spent on the festival. So of the £1500 pa average that people pay in council tax, as above, £75 goes to Penzance town council and £3.75 of that goes to Golowan, 31p per month about 7 or 8p a week. As this report states the festival brings in £4.5 million to the economy. Some have doubted that figure, but from talking to shopowners and traders and from hearing stories. I know that many businesses have better days and even weeks for Mazey day and Golowan than they do for the rest of the year. Certainly there are businesses that don't capitalise on it. But from a business point of view, if the town council can invest a relatively small amount of money for a large number of visitors benefiting a large amount of businesses, then it's worth it. Unfortunately there will always be winners and losers.

Many have suggested to me on twitter and in the comments on this post here, that Golowan should be 100% self financing. Unfortunately nobody has suggested how this would work. There are staff that work year round organising the week long events over dozens of venues and hundreds of acts and performers. Road closures cost £600 for each one, not to mention of course the numerous risk assessments, public liability insurance, marketing and promotion. Let's not forget most of the work is done by volunteers, who selflessly give their time.

So, what other funding options?

Unfortunately the naysayers don't seem to have a credible, let alone costed plan, for how we might pay for the festival. From my perspective and the previous Town Council who set the budget, the money given to Golowan is a sound investment. It's not a statutory duty of the town council to support community events (although we do support a great number) neither is it a statutory duty to attract people into Penzance to spend money although it is something we do do, supporting events for example, the farmer's market, the christmas market etc.

It has been suggested that businesses pay for the festival, although this isn't a bad idea. When Cornwall Council stopped funding Golowan there wasn't a great deal of take up. I can't imagine that many businesses would be forthcoming. Unfortunately our town centre is struggling there are empty shops and many businesses are hard pressed to keep going. I believe it would be unfair and unrealistic to add to their burden further. Interestingly many of the detractors run businesses and not a single one offered to help fund the festival which is telling of the situation.

We could of course set up toll booths charging people to come into town on Mazey Day, I don't think this would be particularly productive. At the moment scores of volunteers man the road closures for nothing, surely they would want paying if they were responsible for taking money. Overlooking for a moment how logistically you could possibly collect money from the estimated 30,000 that come to Penzance for Mazey day.

To conclude the expenditure is budgeted for, it is not taken from existing services. It costs the taxpayer less money per year than down the back of the average sofa. It brings exceptional value to the community, it draws visitors to the town, it is a boost for the town center. There's a comments section below, if you can find an alternative way of funding Golowan please do. If you can think of a way for the town council to spend this money that will bring thousands of people and millions of pounds into the local economy, I'm all ears. Until then I will be happy next year to propose that the funding is kept in place in the knowledge it is a small investment for a huge event.


30 comments:

  1. "When Cornwall Council stopped funding Golowan there wasn't a great deal of take up. I can't imagine that many businesses would be forthcoming."

    Which kinda undermines your soundbites about Golowan making so much money for local businesses. If that 4 million figure were true, surely they'd be biting your arm off to keep it running? The fact they're not fussed is very telling, isn't it?

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    1. As I said above, the town centre is struggling we can't fill our shops. Businesses fail in Penzance on a frighteningly frequent basis. I certainly wouldn't want to eat further into their costs. To my mind 5% of our tiny budget, less than 1% of my council tax is worth spending on promoting the town centre for Golowan week.

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    2. ..and yet despite 20 years of this miracle tonic of a festival the shops keep closing....a jackass argument if ever there was one

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    3. What would you suggest, pull out funding scale it back? which would equal less visitors, less tourists and how would that help business in Penzance?

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    4. What would I suggest? The high-street as we know it is dead. We can either accept it, adapt and change (frightening!) or we can continue to pour money into a dead-end while things like social care suffer.

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    5. According to this http://m.thisiscornwall.co.uk/story.html?aid=14333039
      the benefit to Pz is 750 k not 4.5 mill.
      Still of value but compared to Helston Flora, Trevithick day, Padstow Obby Oss we spend three times more.
      I suggest that the steering committe on TC find out why our fest is so exspensive and find ways to bring it in line.
      Commercial sponsorship should be exploited - not limply asking for help in the Cornishman but sound commercial proposals ie sponsors logo on flags etc.

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    6. I read the link where does it say £750k? Again Flora day etc are 1 day events, Golowan is a week long...

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    7. To other anonymous it would be simpler if I just wrote 1 comment but nevermind. Penzance Town council does not fund the provision of social care. No money for Golowan is taken from any such budget, neither could it be as Cornwall Council is the authority responsible not the town council. You may see the high street as dead I don't agree. If we don't do things to attract people into the town centre, to spend money and use it as a social and cultural space it will continue to suffer.

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  2. AP
    Trevithick day Camborn town council grant £8500. Helston Town council, only £6500 for all grants a further £2000 for harvest day which brings back £2000, Padstow Obby oss unknown but how much can it cost a few thousand for roads closed Helston set aside 4k for that.
    From all i can find we seem to be paying royally for what helston et al get at a fraction.
    There is an alternative go study Helstons approach and do likewise- for instance the flags are privately sponsored. The business community are engaged because they see REAL value for money . !

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    1. To be honest and I appreciate your research but you're comparing apples with pears. Golowan is a week long event, whereas the others are a single day. Further they don't have the diversity of events that Penzance does. I take it you run a business will you put your money where you're mouth is and chip in?

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    2. None of the similar local festivals have full time paid staff....go figure!!!

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    3. neither does Golowan....

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    4. Anon (hard to be specific, the comment from 19:48) You're accusations that are pretty close to libel there. The funding from the town council is scrutinised (as is all spending). If you have a specific accusation that people are fraudulently taking public funds or funds from a charity then I suggest you take it to the police because this would be a serious offence. Just because you think spending is unwise or uncalled for (its a democracy you won't agree with everything) does not mean somebody is acting illegally or that public money isn't being spent without due diligence.

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    5. ...AND NO DOUBT THEY WERE SCRUTINISED BEFORE THEY GOT SLASHED IN HALF...so your ability to quantify is dubious at best.
      Publish the full accounts and stand by your desicions. I'll support a proof based argument that creates a sustainable event going thru the next decades ...not waffle confusion and half disclosure.

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    6. As I have said before Golowan is a seperate entity. I have no authority to publish their accounts. As I have said before in other comments and in the blog above the budget was set before I joined the town council. To be clear I have made no decisions on this spend. Please prove why even if I could, I should question the funding of this festival.

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    7. ffs, you , Rob, stood on an election platform of accountability and transparency...need i esay more

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    8. I don't see what it is you think I am hiding. People asked for the figures and justification for how much the town council funds Golowan, this is why I wrote this blog. I'm happy that the festival needs funding and that the festival is good for Penzance and is a money spinner for the town. Which is why before budget cuts Cornwall Council went through due diligence and scrutiny to fund Golowan. Again what exactly makes you think this is not a sound investment?

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    9. ''Cornwall Council went through due diligence and scrutiny to fund Golowan. ''
      WHAT??????????????????
      Pass me that brochure for Falmouth investment someone please//

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    10. You may think councils can spend money on a whim. But there are very strict rules and retrospective auditing procedures for the use of public money. What makes you question this is not the case here? For all the comments and accusations I've read from the 4 people that hate the idea of funding Golowan not 1 has convinced me anything improper has taken place. Please use logic, reason and evidence to convince me I'm not swayed by an over zealous use of caps exclamation marks and question marks.

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  3. One issue is the amount charged for charity stallholders. If it is true that all of the money from the street stalls goes to County, could there not be an argument that our CCs should be arguing for a share of that income back into the town funds?

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    1. Definitely there is an argument, as with parking, the harbour and most things in Penzance we pay more in than we get out.

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  4. Rob said ''attract people into the town centre, to spend money and use it as a social and cultural space it will continue to suffer.''
    By your own standard then the golowan event is failing...can i suggest it is scaled down further and any savings put toward the Pz market day idea which will continue throughout the year not just one weekend.

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    1. Have you brought funding plans to the town council? Quite why you think you're idea has to be brought forward at the expense of a long running festival is a bit bizarre. Have you considered there might be the possibility of funding both?

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    2. Anonymous, pray tell us all about Pz market day, as there is already a Farmers market on a Friday and a Country Market on a Thursday?

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    3. i understand only that it is a genuine attempt to reinvigorate town centre ....surely all concerned want that?

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  5. Anonymous, pray tell us all about Pz market day, as there is already a Farmers market on a Friday and a Country Market on a Thursday?

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  6. The animated Anonymous above is Tim Dwelly.

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    1. pretty sure in fact certain td is a huge fan of golowan. perhaps you are red ruth ?

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  7. I would've thought shaving a few quid off this event would be an 'easy bag' for Rob, considering the cost of it. I certainly don't understand the 'keep funding in place until someone else thinks of something' comment, especially as so many have voiced their concerns.

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    1. Although I understand your point, I'm not exactly sure so many have voiced their concerns and from tracking IP addresses actually the anonymous comments on this and the other blog originate from 10 locations. So actually there is about half the people for the funding and happy that things actually cost money and half that hate it. From a vague look at the map locations of the anonymous comments many of the anti ones are people that stood for election in May and failed to get elected (Future for Penzance, Conservatives, so I sense this is more about sour grapes and being contrary for the sake of it, than actually making a reasonable point (thus the 'anonymity' of their commenting.

      I have spoken to a number of people in the area and there aren't a great deal the share the concerns of the antis, so prolifically posting here. The research I am collating on attitudes to Golowan and the funding of it will be a subject of a blog soon.

      But to answer your point costs Ben, I don't know how well you know the Golowan story but it used to get a much larger sum of funding from Cornwall Council until recently. After this was withdrawn there was a crisis meeting (that none of the people that have so many ideas about how it should be funded went to, again are they just being contrary for the sake of it?. The festival has adapted to this loss of funding and many generous people have come forward to help out and many volunteers have spent a great deal of time fundraising for Golowan. As to the town council's funding, I was not on the council when this decision was made. From the information I have and the people I have spoken to I am happy that this is a sound investment and the money is well spent. Obviously when this comes before the council I will be looking for assurances as I would with any other spending by the town council.

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