Tall Ships shortfall better than thought

Hartlepool RNLI lifeboats pictured opposite the tall ship Mir.
Hartlepool RNLI lifeboats pictured opposite the tall ship Mir.

NEW figures reveal that the shortfall for last summer’s Tall Ships Races event is expected to be £140,000 lower than first thought.

Finance chiefs at Hartlepool Borough Council had previously announced they were facing an unbudgeted bill of up to £720,000 after income from merchandising and park and ride revenue was lower than expected.

But new figures show the shortfall has reduced to £580,000 after the majority of the outstanding invoices were paid and income was collected.

The majority of the shortfall was as a result of parking income, only raking in £200,000 despite being estimated to earn as much as £1.2m.

Meanwhile, the sale of souvenirs like clothing, programmes and merchandise was also lower than expected.

Last August’s event, which attracted dozens of ships and almost one million people, cost £3.9m in total and it was funded by the council and partner organisations.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “When we first released the figures on the shortfall it was always a worst-case scenario that we were working on.

“A lot has been going on in recent months to recoup as much of that as we could.

“There is still work going on and it could be even lower.

“The majority of the shortfall came from a lack of income on the park and ride. But as has been reported we covered the shortfall and it didn’t affect services.

“I am not happy about any shortfall in income and I would like to see it come down even further.”

Money had been set aside to cover the shortfall so the figure of £140,000 is expected to be used as a reserve in case of any “unforeseen” circumstances this year.

The figures were included in a budget report set to go before the council’s cabinet committee next Monday, May 23.

A report said: “The majority of the outstanding invoices and contractual commitments have now been paid and income due collected.

“On this basis the out-turn shortfall is expected to reduce to £0.58m.

“This assumes the remaining outstanding income of £65,000 (net of VAT) is received.

“On this basis it is now expected the actual cost of this event will be £0.14m less than previously forecast.”

The budget reports says the overall economic picture is better than first thought after a series of tough measures resulted in the council recovering a £4m pot of cash, as reported in yesterday’s Mail.

Tough measures put in place to deal with impending Government funding cuts means officers have a reserve to help manage high-cost risks such as caring for vulnerable people over the next three years.

It was achieved by not filling vacant posts, cutting costs across the council and increasing income.

Mayor Drummond welcomed the news, but warned there will still be significant cuts to jobs and services.