THE YORKSHIRE Post is the first to congratulate Newcastle-Gateshead on winning the race to host the Great Exhibition of the North in 2018. Its leaders must have made a compelling case to surpass the innovative bids put forward by Sheffield and Bradford respectively.
Yet, while there is disappointment that Yorkshire will not be hosting this landmark event, this once-in-a-generation celebration is intended to showcase the North in its entirety and civic leaders here should ensure that their city is part of this party in two years time.
Not only does Hull have the chance to set a very high standard when it is next year’s City of Culture – the creativity of its packed programme is already receiving global attention – but there’s still £15m of Government funding up for grabs as part of the Great Exhibition’s legacy programme.
Both Sheffield and Bradford now need to identify the most eyecatching elements of their submissions and see whether it is possible to secure legacy funding or commercial support from the private sector. There’s no reason why each city can’t stage its own Great Exhibition if the content has broad appeal and, most crucially of all, will attract new visitors to the area and showcase South and West Yorkshire in the best possible light.
Equally it’s important that the energy and enthusiasm generated by the bid process across the North is now applied to existing attractions like the National Media Museum in Bradford which is still reeling from the loss of an acclaimed photographic collection.
Museums have to keep moving with the times, children love gadgets and inter-action, and it’s important that the creative talents of all are utilised so such attractions can generate new funding to update displays. In this regard, the Great Exhibition can only be beneficial.
Transparency test: Secrecy over botched £300m deal
IT is scandalous that the Government is more than £10m out of pocket as a result of a botched deal with a private company contracted to run driver theory tests.
However it is even more scandalous that the Government was so economical with the truth when it emerged that the contractor concerned – learndirect – could not fulfil its obligations and had received the seven figure pay-off before carrying out a single test.
Let it be remembered that this was a 10-year deal worth £300m and the Ministers have had to reinstate the original test provider Pearson whose services, and fees, were presumably the reason why the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency – an offshoot of the Department for Transport – wanted to switch contractors.
Let it also be remembered that it had to be signed off by Sir Patrick McLoughlin, the then Transport Secretary and now Tory party chairman, and also the Treasury when it was under George Osborne’s command.
Money which the country simply cannot afford to squander, not only do Ministers owe taxpayers an apology but they also need to explain why they refused to reveal the amounts involved to Parliament before a Freedom of Information request submitted by The Yorkshire Post exposed the truth.
Taxpayers have a right to expect total transparency – even more so when questions are being asked about the competence of Ministers and civil servants. It’s now up to Theresa May to tell those concerned that she expects far higher standards, starting with her party chairman. Nothing less should suffice.
The vanity bridge
NOT only does newly-knighted Tory chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin have questions to answer over driving tests – but why did he repeatedly over-rule Department for Transport officials and make more money available for the so-called ‘garden bridge’ over the Thames in London when the business case represented such “poor value for money”?
With the National Audit Office warning that more than £22.5m of public money could now go to waste because sufficient money cannot be raised from other sources, this is, frankly, insulting to Hull where the Government has prevaricated over the construction of a temporary footbridge over the busy A63 dual carriageway to assist visitors attending next year’s City of Culture celebrations.
Profligacy that once again smacks of London enjoying preferential treatment over the rest of the country, such double standards need to be stopped straight away if the North-South divide is ever to be bridged.