Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Taxpayer could face bill for £611k City of Culture shortfall

Culture Company chief executive Shona McCarthy yesterday denied that any of the City of Culture projects were completely dead in the water.

The company also confirmed that there is a black hole of £611,000 which has to be filled to pay for the 2013 events programme.

This has been caused by slower than expected ticket sales and disappointing private sponsorship, with the taxpayer now likely to pay for the shortfall.

Derry’s original bid to be the first UK City of Culture outlined how the city intended to attract £2.5m in private sponsorship.

But Ms McCarthy immediately revised this down to £1m on taking up her post in April 2011 due to the economic climate.

However, less than half of this has been achieved to date.

However, Ms McCarthy said: “The half a million pounds of private sponsorship, that is just direct cash. We have another £300,000 sponsorship ‘in kind’.

“One tangible example of that is Translink for the Turner Prize, making sure every young person studying art at school will be able to avail of transport via a free bus service. Translink have offered to pay for that and they have done that for events such as the tea dances as well.

“BT have also invested heavily, around £3m, on the city’s infrastructure and are bringing all their digital technology to the table for events such as Other Voices and Portrait Of A City.”

She added: “We have not just been concentrating on private finance. The Culture Company has secured £12.6m from government, another £4.5m on top of that in other funders and investments and then £5m of money leveraged from the Big Lottery, among others.

“All this was secured in a very short time frame.”

Ms McCarthy, however, said she was totally confident the funding deficit would be rectified, with eight funding applications currently submitted to various bodies, and with eight months of 2013 still to go. She said she did not foresee any cuts having to be made to the programme, and the worst case scenario would mean some of the organisers of smaller events being asked to cut back on their costs.

She added: “The worst that anybody will be asked to do is to scale back slightly in their ambitions, but at this stage we are not anticipating anybody would have to do that and not asking them to.”

It is believed the problems with the parked projects may relate to the provision of funding.

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