Lancashire's City of Culture bid has collapsed
Lancashire has abandoned its bid to become UK City of Culture 2025 after the county council withdrew its support.
The Lancashire 2025 bid was being driven by a strategic partnership between Lancashire County Council and many other local authorities and bodies.
But today the county council said it could no longer afford the cost of its vital support.
Tony Attard, chair of the Lancashire 2025 bid team, said: “It is with deep and great sadness that I have to announce that Lancashire will not be submitting a bid for UK City of Culture 2025.
"Unfortunately, the new administration at Lancashire County Council has now taken the unilateral decision to withdraw their support for the bid, and without them acting as the accountable body the bid is simply untenable.
"The idea for Lancashire to become City of Culture 2025 is one that has matured over a four-year period and included councillors and officers from LCC and the district and unitary authorities as well as the LEP.
"A significant amount of work has been undertaken by the many people involved, including talented people from the private sector. We have undertaken research and liaison with DCMS at a very high level, to create a compelling, innovative and original bid."
He added: "Bidding for City of Culture is a competitive process because the rewards for winning are so significant. Lancashire has five of the most deprived areas in the UK within its boundaries, and we have been hit harder than most places by Covid 19, the people of Lancashire should not be denied these rewards.
"We had a very strong chance to win this prestigious title, we have put in the work and created the partnerships that put us ahead of the competition. That we are being forced to pull out now, just three weeks before we were due to submit our formal expression of interest is devastating.”
The county council had already spent £625,000 on the bid and was committed to another £625,000 this year.
The bid cost around £3m, with the rest of the money coming from other local authorities, grants etc.
County Coun Alan Vincent, LCC's Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance said: "We have carefully considered the potential costs and benefits of the bid and have decided that Lancashire County Council can no longer underwrite it.
"We know this will be disappointing to those who have worked so hard on this project over the past couple of years, but feel it is the right decision for Lancashire County Council.
"Whilst the proposal was strong and ambitious, we felt that underwriting the bid to the tune of up to £22m created too great a financial risk to the council at a time when there are significant pressures on services and our costs, and continuing financial uncertainty following the pandemic.
"Lancashire County Council remains committed to an ongoing programme of arts and culture which is both good for the county's residents and local economy.
"We are continuing to work towards sustainable and reinvigorated offers for our museums and we are fully committed to cultural services across Lancashire. We will also continue to invest in our libraries and support innovative schemes such as the Re-imagining the Harris project in Preston.
"We will seek to adopt elements from the proposal as we develop a new culture and sport strategy in the coming months and years."
Labour's Lancashire County Council opposition group leader Azhar Ali described the decision as "shocking", adding: "It's a massive kick in the teeth for our creative industries and for tourism.
If Lancashire won City of Culture status, the county would celebrate for a whole year with an eclectic mix of events that might include music, dance, theatre, art and large-scale public spectacles.
Held once every four years, the UK City of Culture is a competition run by the Government. Previous winners are Derry/Londonderry in 2013, Hull in 2017 and Coventry this year.
Both Hull and Derry/Londonderry experienced a major boost in tourism, as people travelled to visit all of the artistic and cultural events that the city's bid team had organised.
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