Tall ships parking shortfall study

AN in depth study has failed to give councillors answers as to why car parking income for Hartlepool's staging of The Tall Ships Races was over-estimated.

Members of Hartlepool Borough Council's cabinet committee met to discuss the findings of an independent report by a firm called Spirul into the economic impact on town and whether the event had been value for money.

The 120-page report concluded that the event, which saw almost one million people visit town last August, was a success and that the return on the 3.9m budget was excellent value for money and it created an extra 26.5m in expenditure for the Hartlepool economy.

But the council was left with a 720,000 deficit due to a drop in expected revenue from park and ride schemes to the .

Proposals to fund the deficit were approved at a meeting of the full council last October, at which councillors also called for another report, separate from the economic impact assessment, detailing the reasons why the car parking and associated income were overestimated and what more could have been done to maximise entrepreneurial opportunities for town residents.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Labour councillor Jonathan Brash said he had heard nothing on what was happening with that report.

Council officers said discussions were ongoing with Spirul about additional evaluation but cabinet members raised concerns that extra funding would be needed.

Labour councillor Pamela Hargreaves said: "The Tall Ships was a huge success and it had a massive benefit to the town both internally and externally and if there is an opportunity we should go for it again.

"But the disappointing thing is why questions about the losses should be an extra piece of work. It should be integral. I would question what the scope of the Spirul report was."

Labour councillor Ged Hall, who said the local authority would have been in trouble with the Highways Agency if the parking provision was any less, said the remit of the report was to see whether the event had been value for money and what the economic impact had been on town.

Independent councillors Cath Hill and Hilary Thompson both questioned the need for spending more money on an additional report.

Coun Thompson said: "I am not sure that this evaluation will tell us anything more than we already know."

While most of the economic impact report was positive, it said there were lessons to be learned such as improving the liaison with traders and exhibitors, whether more involvement from the private sector could have maximised the income potential and that communication with businesses in Hartlepool could be improved.

The independent evaluation exercise was a requirement of the funding from One NorthEast, which contributed 775,000 to the project.