In an astonishing leap of imagination which caught critics off-guard, the Council has passed up dull opportunities merely to fix roads or provide accommodation. Instead, dovetailing current international affairs with local needs, officials have rolled out a financial plan to support the passing through Cornwall next year of the Olympic Torch.
Council tourism officer Malcolm Bellend described the post created to mastermind the scheme. "We're seeking a Project Administrator to assist the Festivals & Events Coordinator in the successful delivery of the Olympic Torch Relay through Cornwall in May 2012," he intoned. "The Project Administrator will help raise awareness of the event throughout Cornwall, while also reinforcing the county's profile nationally and internationally." Bellend declined to say whether the post would be filled by an employee from the Council’s Serco industry partner, but confirmed a total promotional budget of £135,000 has been ring-fenced for the one-day event.
Despite overwhelming local enthusiasm for the Council's carefree innovation, a few 'moaning minnies' have tried to spoil the occasion. Mid-Cornwall MP Stephen Gilbert said: “It’s bonkers for Cornwall Council to throw money around when at the same time they're hitting local projects and services with funding cuts. Instead, cash should be put into schemes which benefit our communities here.”
But the 'wet blankets', say officials, are a tiny minority; most people are setting aside fears of homelessness or unemployment and embracing the Olympics whole-heartedly. It's expected the Council will soon be revealing all the Cornish venues it's secured where Olympic events will be held.
The Council's estimated that as much as £7 million could be made from the torch's journey between Land’s End and the Tamar. However, it has yet to say whether the actual financial out-turn will be independently verified, or notified to the public. It has also to explain what the project can achieve in terms of raising awareness that relentless national media bombardment can't.
Since the torch itself will be carried nationwide, it's not as if visitors will flock to see it in Cornwall. There will be no legacy left of its progress, so no long-term or even residual benefit for Cornish people. On top of that, the £100 million central government-backed advertising campaign to lure overseas tourists to Britain has concentrated on London and south-east England; the Duchy has been snubbed.
£135,000: another waste of public money by cash-strapped Cornwall Council? You decide.