Hartlepool Council defends Olympic relay fund

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COUNCIL bosses have defended how they helped fund the Olympic Torch visit to Hartlepool last summer.

Research by a website called Help Me Investigate the Olympics revealed Hartlepool Borough Council used funding earmarked for the Maritime Festival budget to help pay towards the £10,000 cost of the Torch relay.

The Maritime Festival, which was held every two years, has since been axed as part of the council’s cost-cutting measures in light of savage Government cuts.

But senior officers say the decision to scrap the popular festival had “nothing whatsoever” to do with the money spent on hosting the Torch relay.

The Maritime Festival had a budget of £35,000 and officers say around 10 per cent of that, plus external sports funding, covered the £10,000 cost of hosting the Olympic Torch.

Thousands of people lined the streets to wave and cheer as the Torch made its way round town as part of a UK-wide relay ahead of the summer Olympic Games.

Paul Bradshaw is a course leader in the MA online journalism course at Birmingham City University and is heavily involved in the Help Me Investigate website, a not-for-profit organisation that supports investigative journalism.

The website has revealed that councils across the country used funds intended for economic development, council reserves and food markets to help fund the Torch relay.

Mr Bradshaw said: “Hartlepool was one of those places that used other budgets to help fund the relay.

“There is no doubting the success of the relay but we want to make people aware of how it was funded.”

A council spokesman said: “The total amount spent on hosting the Olympic Torch in Hartlepool on Sunday, June 17, 2012 was around £10,000.

“This cost was covered using a small part - around 10 per cent - of the Maritime Festival budget and some external sports funding.

“The bulk of the Maritime Festival budget was spent on staging the Diamond Festival, a celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which took place on the weekend of June 2/3 – two weeks prior to the arrival of the torch.

“The subsequent decision to end the Maritime Festival was part of the council’s wide-ranging strategy to deal with Government budget cuts and it had nothing whatsoever to do with the money spent on hosting the Olympic Torch.”