REVEALED: Taxpayers pick up £350k bill for ill-fated 2023 bid

A Dundee dance routine with moves inspired by the citys favourite landmarks and comic book characters was performed at Slessor Gardens in September to support of Dundee's bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2023
A Dundee dance routine with moves inspired by the citys favourite landmarks and comic book characters was performed at Slessor Gardens in September to support of Dundee's bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2023

Dundee’s ill-fated bid to become European Capital of Culture 2023 has cost the public purse more than £350,000 — despite those behind the bid knowing the risk of it being ruled out by Brexit.

Data provided to the Tele showed the money — a combination of hard cash and services provided ‘in kind’ — was obtained from a number of local and national public bodies.

Dundee’s culture capital hopes came crashing down in November after the European Commission said the UK was not eligible because of its decision to leave the EU.

Those who funded the bid said they had assessed the risk of this before paying out.

The overall figure is likely to be higher as it does not include private investment.

Dundee council contributed £178,100 to the effort — including £56,900 in cash — while Leisure and Culture Dundee and the University of Dundee provided £61,800 and £22,400 of in-kind services respectively.

VisitScotland and EventScotland together supplied £57,300, including a cash grant of £40,500.

Scottish Enterprise provided £32,500 — of which £25,000 was hard cash. However, an enterprise spokeswoman said most of this had been earmarked for an economic assessment postponed after the European Commission’s move.

James Price, campaign manager at think-tank the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the risky spending was “deeply irresponsible”.

He added: “£350,000 seems like a lot of money to spend on this bid when taxpayers in Dundee are already struggling under the largest tax burden in decades.

“The risk assessments conducted were clearly not rigorous enough and the authorities ought to reconsider spending such large amounts of taxpayers’ cash next time they are tempted by something exciting but ultimately frivolous.”

Stewart Murdoch, chairman of the bid, said it was “extremely difficult” to know the true cost, adding: “The difficulty stems from the fact that the process has been integrated with the city’s implementation of its cultural strategy.”

A spokesman for the University of Dundee said the institution had been “happy” to support the bid with in-kind staff assistance.

And Stuart Turner, head of EventScotland, said: “As with all applications to the programme, a full assessment was carried out before agreeing support for the Dundee European Capital of Culture 2023 bid.”

Costs were ‘inevitable’

Dundee’s ambitious bid for European Capital of Culture 2023 “inevitably” incurred some costs, the team behind it has said.

A statement issued on behalf of the bid team by Dundee City Council said the bid was embraced by the city as an opportunity to harness the positive energy in Dundee.

The statement added: “A wide range of partners, including the city council, Leisure & Culture Dundee, universities, artists, designers, media organisations and others, bought into the ambition. Many of them provided support including in-kind resources and promotion for the bid.

“Putting together a credible bid inevitably incurred some costs.

“It is disappointing to everyone involved that, despite assurances that Brexit would not influence the process, we have not so far been able to put our bid before the judges.”

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