Saturday, July 29, 2006

On Penny Lane The Council Starts Another Money Fire

Thank God the money ran out first

Setting aside the slave trade, Liverpool's biggest ever contribution to world culture was of course the Fab Four. IIRC they were not subsidised by taxpayers.

It's a different story today, with the City's taxpayers routinely shelling out a million quid to subsidise "Summer Pops" concerts.

But much worse is to come, in the form of the moneypit bequeathed by ex-Council Chief Exec Sir David Henshaw of CSA (qv here): the European Capital of Culture 2008.

As you might expect, projected costs are vague and open-ended. In May 2003 the Council priced its "core cultural" projects at a scary £1bn. But as the Times reminds us today, large chunks of that "plan" have already been abandoned- in particular, "Will Alsop’s Cloud building, also known as the Fourth Grace, which helped to win the Capital of Culture bid, was abandoned after its price tag of £324 million scared off the public funders."

Tensions are rising among the organisers. The artistic director has abruptly resigned amid complaints that she “was booking acts that had little resonance to Liverpool, and her programme offered no popular culture, just highbrow acts such as aboriginal nose-flute players”. The final straw was when she blew £250,000 on some wacky event that only attracted 600 people, and them mainly on free tickets.

So just like the Dome, with only eighteen months to go, the whole thing is rudderless. Blood Brothers scouser Willy Russell says “I have no sense of Capital of Culture being under any effective control.”

And unlike the Dome- almost certainly completed with last minute assistance from 5,000 illegal Albanian labourers- Liverpool will have to work within diktats laid down by its famous brothers. The T&G is already saying "We call on Liverpool City Council to become actively involved in making sure that health and safety is the priority on all the building projects in the city. We want a city of culture, not a city of carnage." Which sounds horribly horribly expensive.

It's another case of costs are going through the roof, while content is pared back to the bone. If you're a Liverpudlian Council Tax payer, the best advice is to move.

Pic: The abandoned Fourth Grace as it would have wrecked Liverpool's Pierhead, from Save Our Skyline

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