"People say we can't afford to do it. I say we can't afford NOT to do it" – Capital of culture bid to proceed :)

“We’ve got to get over this reluctance to be ambitious, this reluctance to have a vision. I personally feel that in 2023 Cornwall will need something of a new impetus. The European money would have gone, we don’t know where we’ll be with Brexit and at that point in time this could give a real boost to the economy”


The cabinet of Cornwall council met again this morning to re-consider the bid for Cornwall to become European Capital of Culture. Once again it was overwhelmingly supported 8 -1 on the day.

The decision is effective immediately and now event planners can now get on with the job in hand.

The Council’s Cabinet today agreed to lead a partnership bid for the prestigious award following a request for Members to reconsider their original decision.

John Pollard, leader of the Council urged the whole of Cornwall to now get behind the bid and put the rancour generated in recent weeks behind us.

The original decision made by the Council was sent back to cabinet by the Council’s own Scrutiny Committee. The scrutiny process itself had been useful Cllr Pollard said and the council will need to learn lessons about consultations with wider Cornwall, especially Town and Parish Councils.

The meeting was told that the costs of going ahead with the first phase of the bid would be £336,000, not the £536,000 originally reported, with potential economic benefits to Cornwall of up to £769,000 .

Cllr Pollard urged the cabinet to stick the matter in hand – eg the process of how the cabinet reached it’s original decision – and not the wider debate about the bid.

First Cllr Neil Burden Chair of the Scrutiny committee:  “As chair, the whole management committee had real concerns about consultation.This should now be taken on board by the council, who should learn lesson from this call-in about when to start consulting”

Cllr Julian German, Portfolio Holder for Culture and the man behind the bid said that “We had a full discussion at Scrutiny Committee and at cabinet. The monitoring officer confirmed that the consultation required by the constitution had been undertaken. I believe Cabinet made it’s (original) decision in the knowledge of the risks and costs that were laid out in the report, along with the EU Bidding Guidance and these were discussed at cabinet as evidenced in the webcast”

Sandra Rothwell , Chief Exec of the Council and CEO of the LEP gave evidence and suggested that the £336k to be spent on the first phase of the bid will realise £769k in what they call Advertising Value Equivalent – eg how much it would cost in advertising to generate the publicity by the events planned this year to launch the bid. This would be of “immediate economic benefit”  she said.

Adam Paynter, Lib Dem Deputy Leader of the council: “It’s clear to see that things weren’t exactly done correctly but the whole scrutiny process has been helpful. What has been very unhelpful is that this has been turned into a political football.

“No matter what anyone says we’ve certainly seen the Conservatives doing their best to rubbish this bid. It’s important because it’s changed the public perception and that has made it difficult.

“I would have thought our MPs have got far more important things to worry about such as fighting for funding for social care in Cornwall, the NHS and school funding. I think it has been disappointing that they have tried to use this as a smokescreen before the election just to paint this council in a bad light. In addition to perpetuating myths and lies about this council, just things like public toilets closures (when in fact the last Conservative led council prior to this shut four times as many). It’s unfortunate that this has come out as part of this. We have risen above that and need to make sure that the benefits to Cornwall of this bid come across”

Mr Paynter went on to confirm that the initial estimated coast of the bid has been reduced through donations of ‘in kind’ support from places like Eden, Tate or the University.

“The £336k is for events to happen over this summer in Cornwall – that’s key. Taxpayers will get a direct benefit from the money that goes in.

“As far as the money coming from other sources, and not just the money but the value of the bid, we are looking to partners to increase the value of the bid. So although CC is underwriting this bid, much of the money and value will come from other sources. We haven’t put a figure on it yet as that will be finalised in time”.

So in the end the council’s actual cash contribution could be returned 3 times given the estimated £769k quoted by Sandrra Rothwell.


Edwina Hannaford, Councillor for Looe, said that the scrutiny process had given her more confidence that the original decision was the correct one.

However she said the frustrating thing was that “2 out of the 3 Tory Councillors who raised the objection weren’t at the original cabinet and it’s was unclear whether they’s even seen the webcast or read the minutes”

She said that through personal experience as guest house owner in Looe, she could see the benefit of investing in Culture. Although it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, she pointed out that 80% of visitors to Looe Music Festival come from outside Cornwall and it has given an estimated £18m injection into the wider SE Cornwall economy over the last three years – aswell as providing a platform for local bands to perform on the BBC Introducing stage.

Cllr Hannaford continued “With the dismay at the derisory amount of money we got from Growth Deal last week, you have to ask : Can we rely on our MPs to fight for investment to Cornwall? Can we rely on our Government to do that? So we are filling that gap by having vision and ambition, and showing leadership. I’m not sure anyone else is going to do it for us – so we are taking control of our own destiny”

Jeremy Rowe (who is standing down at the election ) claimed that the bid “is about retaining ambition and creating a future for our young people. It’s incumbent upon us to look at that bigger picture”

He then lightened proceedings by comparing St Austell Tory MP Steve Double to Trump because of the way he deflects attention

“What this shows inadvertently is that an MP can actually have an affect. It’s a deflection tactic to overcome image problems of his own. With a total failure to fight for Cornwall in many other respects, deflection of this kind is something that you would expect Donald Trump to do, he’s a Cornish Donald Trump. The most depressing thing I expect is that he would take that as a compliment!”

After the vote JP said he also regretted the politicising of the bid – “It’s unfortunate that it has become so political and there has been some misinformation” – but said the challenge to the team, the council and to Cornwall is to now get over that.

He reminded the cabinet of the incredible community response to the visit of the Olympic Torch, that the Council put £50k into.

“We’ve got to get over this reluctance to be ambitious, this reluctance to have a vision. I personally feel that in 2023 Cornwall will need something of a new impetus. The European money would have gone, we don’t know where we’ll be with Brexit and at that point in time this could give a real boost to the economy”

“People say we can’t afford to do it. I say we can’t afford NOT to do it”

Welcoming the decision after the meeting Julian German, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Culture, said; “We are now in an even stronger position to bid for Truro – Cornwall to be the European Capital of Culture than when the Cabinet supported the proposal a month ago.  

“Truro City Council has come out in favour of the bid and a number of key organisations from across Cornwall have already written to us to show their support and pledge resources to help Cornwall win this prestigious award.  We will now be looking to reduce the impact on council tax payers even further by seeking contributions from other businesses and partners towards these costs.”

The creative and cultural sector is one of the fastest growing parts of the economy and is already worth £9bn to Cornwall. Nationally employment growth rates in the sector increased by 83.5% from 1997-2013. This European Capital of Culture bid is another key cornerstone in the development and implementation of this economic and cultural strategy for Cornwall as a whole.

“After considered and rigorous debate, it’s now time to put doubts aside and get behind a significant, exciting and ambitious opportunity that could create over two thousand jobs across Cornwall,” added Julian German.  “We must not lose the energy, enthusiasm, vision and aspiration of this bid which will benefit the whole of Cornwall – not just Truro.

Cornwall consistently punches above its weight and there has never been a better time for us to celebrate our heritage and our current and future success and visions.  We have the best connected rural broadband network in Europe, the UK’s number one Arts University, brave theatre companies like Kneehigh, WildWorks, Rogue, Golden Tree and internationally renowned visual artists and innovative cultural entrepreneurs from East to West. 

“In 2023 the world will be a different place and the UK will be outside of the European Union. Who can say what that will mean for Cornwall?

“Bidding for Capital of Culture will enable us to celebrate and update the story of Cornwall and position ourselves as a region that recognises its many challenges,  is culturally rich, open for business and an outward looking place that welcomes innovation, investment, development through diversity and creativity and welcomes and supports new ideas.”

The Council will now be working with partners, politicians, communities, grass roots organisations, businesses and commercial organisations to submit the Cornwall bid by late October 2017.   This will involve seeking financial and in kind contributions.

Launch plans and programme concepts will be unveiled in the near future.