WALTER CRONXITE reports on an excellent cost saving by the council which passed by entirely unmentioned at this week’s Town Hall budget meetings
Council leader Tony Newman’s bike race, which has cost Croydon Council Tax-payers at least £300,000 since 2015, has been axed.
The criterion event has seen professional cyclists racing around the town centre on an early summer evening for the last three years as an indulgence to the local Labour leader’s mission “to put Croydon on the map”.
Croydon, of course, has been “on the map” since the Domesday Book; what Newman really meant was that it flattered his burgeoning ego to make an appearance on a late-night TV slot on a poorly watched highlights package.
Newman was unhappy about questions about the cost of staging the event, which never really grabbed the imagination of the Croydon public, and did little if anything to advance the cause of cyclists in the town.
In the first year, the council admitted that it had paid the organisers £150,000, before back-pedalling quicker than Bradley Wiggins to claim that its costs had been covered by sponsors.
The event might have had a worthwhile place in a structured calendar of sports and cultural events in and around Croydon High Street, as was proposed to Newman in 2013, yet the council has never established a commercial department to raise funding and co-ordinate such a programme.
While many local authorities would expect to charge the race organisers, Sweet Spot, a “facility fee” to use their roads and facilities for their TV event, which benefits from widescale commercial sponsorship, Croydon got mugged to satisfy Newman’s hubris in the midst of austerity cuts to services, paying the organisers to bring the event to south London, as well as picking up the tab for road closures and temporary roadworks.
In Years 2 and 3, the council did manage to find some sponsors to underwrite its costs, but the commercial big-hitters in the town, such as Westfield and the Whitgift Foundation, never picked up the tab for an event which was, essentially, promoting their businesses.
As Inside Croydon revealed last year, it cost the council £7,000 to remove a traffic island from the cycle race route, smooth the surface with tarmac, and then a couple of days later send the roadworks crew back to replace the traffic island on the High Street.
It was, literally, a load of old bollards.
With last year’s race staged in an appalling rainstorm, by the end of the evening, there were more people on the presentation podium picking up prizes from Newman than there were in what passed for a “crowd”.
And now, council officials – not the borough’s elected politicians – have decided to pull the plug.
It’s another embarrassing reverse for Newman, and comes in the week when his bid to have Boozepark as the centre of London’s Borough of Culture was firmly rejected by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Croydon Council has refused to answer questions about the cost of Newman’s abortive Borough of Culture bid.
But on the unlamented Croydon CycleFest, according to a Katharine Street mole, “No one would defend the costs of the bike race this year. Officers left Tony in the lurch over it.
“They put it on the list of cuts. When tiny cuts were being approved all over the place, no one was willing to support £150,000 for one night of cycling. Or even the £100,000 cost that officers were prepared to admit to.
“If the officers had wanted to support Tony, the bike race wouldn’t have appeared at all.”
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