York Council urged to disclose ‘true cost’ of hosting Tour de France

Fireworks light up the sky above Leeds Town Hall in celebration of the Yorkshire Grand Depart Le Tour de France 2014.  17 January 2013.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Fireworks light up the sky above Leeds Town Hall in celebration of the Yorkshire Grand Depart Le Tour de France 2014. 17 January 2013. Picture Bruce Rollinson
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A COUNCIL at the forefront of Yorkshire’s hosting of the Tour de France has been accused of failing to disclose a definitive strategy for the showpiece event amid claims the cost to taxpayers for staging the race could soar without a clear vision.

Opposition councillors have called for the Labour administration of York Council to provide a detailed business case to ensure the bill for the cash-starved authority does not escalate when the world’s largest annual sporting event arrives in the region next summer.

The city is the starting point for the second day of the race’s opening stages in Yorkshire in July next year, and is already scheduled to cost taxpayers in York about £1.3m. However, Liberal Democrat members have claimed speculation is mounting the costs will increase when full details of the route are announced next week. The Government is providing £291,000 to pay for costs in York, but confirmed in September that no more money is available.

The leader of York Council’s Lib Dem group, Coun Keith Aspden, accused the Labour administration of masking the true scale of the costs after its councillors voted against providing a business case. But Labour maintained the demands of the Lib Dems were “unrealistic” as costly additional research would have had to be undertaken in a matter of weeks.

Coun Aspden claimed there are still “lots of unanswered questions” and urged Labour members to publicise a full business case and details of how much income the council expects to generate from staging the race.

He said: “Hosting the Tour De France is a huge opportunity for York, but we need to make sure the costs are kept under control. Originally the council spent £50,000 to secure the race, then it was a £500,000 hosting fee, and earlier this month a further £870,000 was put into staging the event.

“The costs have consistently gone up and we need to know if the council expects these to continue to rise and if they do where the money is going to come from. Residents have a right to know what the council expects to spend and where the money will come from. They will wonder why Labour were so keen to deny them this right.

“The Tour de France is a great opportunity to show the world what we already know - that York is a fantastic place, a place that knows how to put on a good show. But in doing so the council must not forget that it is taxpayers’ money they are spending and we need more than the vague estimates and promises offered by Labour so far.”

But the council’s cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism, Coun Sonja Crisp, was adamant the cost of bringing the Tour de France to York is being closely monitored, and detailed figures have been made public “every step of the way”. Planning for the race comes as the authority is battling to make £20m in cuts over the next two financial years due to the Government’s austerity measures.

Coun Crisp said: “A case for funding a Tour de France stage start in York was made a long time ago and the costs have been made public at every step of the way once those costs were known. Liberal Democrats appear unhappy with the Tour De France coming to York, and would be happier if York had declined to be involved, reflecting their lack of ambition for the city. The money allocated is an investment in York businesses, York jobs and in a cycling legacy for the city and we are proud to be playing our part in such a major global sporting event.”

It was announced in December that Yorkshire had been successful in its bid to host the opening two stages of next year’s Tour de France in what was heralded as the region’s greatest sporting coup. The race is expected to attract two million spectators and 2,000 journalists, bringing an estimated £100m boost. The route will set off from Leeds to Harrogate on July 5, before starting in York and finishing in Sheffield the following day.

York Council’s chief executive, Kersten England, who is herself a keen cyclist, has been charged with overseeing the legacy of the race across Yorkshire.

email paul.jeeves@ypn.co.uk