UK City of Culture programme would come with price tag
by Dan Martin
At least £10 million of public cash will be needed to stage a UK City of Culture programme, according to the Government.
Leicester is one of 11 areas hoping to successfully bid for the title, held by Londonderry in Northern Ireland.
City council bosses and senior arts and business figures believe Leicester being named City of Culture would boost the local economy massively through tourism and the marketing value of winning.
A report to be considered by city councillors next week has said the authority would be required to underwrite the entire cost of a programme of cultural events, should it win the bid.
However, it is anticipated private and public sector organisations would contribute to the final cost.
A city council spokeswoman said the £10 million quoted in the report was a guidance figure from the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) in its notes for bidding cities.
She said: "The figure is an illustrative amount for a bidding city, not a bidding council – and it's not what we're saying Leicester's programme of events would cost.
"Our final bid – which would be submitted in September, if we were to be shortlisted after the first round of bidding – would include fully-costed proposals for Leicester's programme of events."
She said the city already had an impressive annual programme of arts and cultural events, but the calendar for 2017 would require new ideas.
"Those are still being worked on, so it's too early to comment on what Leicester's programme might include – and how much it might cost," she said.
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, chairman of the consortium running the bid, said: "We as a city have the capacity to put these kind of resources behind the bid.
"With the support of businesses and the creative community, who have been very enthusiastic, a programme of this scale is very achievable."
He said it was standard practice for councils to underwrite such bids, adding: "It will bring tens, or hundreds, of millions of pounds into the local economy."
Geoff Rowe, a member of Leicester's bidding board, thinks the figure is based on what Londonderry had spent.
"They invested a lot in capital projects," he said.
"Leicester's bid is focused more on social regeneration and the community rather than major capital schemes."
Conservative opposition councillor Ross Grant said it had been anticipated the Special Olympics hosted by Leicester in 2009 would attract private sponsorship but, in the end, the council used £1 million of reserves to underwrite the games.
"I'd be very wary about saying 'this is great, let's do it' and jumping in only to find we can't afford it," said Coun Grant.
The DCMS guidance notes said a 2009 report suggested "that around £10 million of public funding, as a minimum, over and above a local authority's typical baseline per annum spend on culture, would be needed to prepare for and deliver a reasonable UK City of Culture programme."
The council's annual budget for arts and museums is £5.5 million.
The initial bid process, to be completed by the end of the month, is costing £100,000 split between the council and its partners.