Council leaders say a successful bid could massively benefit the district.
Bradford Council has officially backed the district’s bid to become City of Culture – although some Councillors have called £1.4 million of support for the bid a “gamble.”
A body made up of a number of local arts and cultural groups recently announced that they would be bidding for Bradford to become 2025 UK City Of Culture.
And at a meeting of Bradford Council’s decision making executive this morning, members agreed to back the bid, which would be for the entire Bradford District, and offer support in the form of £1,435,000 funding over a period of three years.
Council leaders said the support was an investment, and that a successful bid could massively benefit the district.
But some opposition Councillors criticised the financial support, pointing out that it was coming at a time when budgets for museums and libraries were being slashed.
At the meeting in City Hall members heard from some of the team behind the bid, including Mary Dowson, who will head up the City of Culture Trust, and Andrew Dixon, who has advised numerous cities on similar bids.
Mr Dixon said over £4 million had been secured to support the bid in the short time since it was announced. He added: “I’ve seen widespread support for the bid in Bradford, that has not been the case in every city I’ve been to.”
He pointed to the impact of Hull’s 2017 City of Culture year on the city, adding: “Before the bid Hull was the butt of all jokes, it was where the BBC would go to do a negative story.”
He said 90 per cent of the population of Hull attended cultural events during the year and there was a 300 per cent increase to museums and galleries.
He said even bidding for the title brought benefits – pointing out that Sunderland and Stoke saw increased investment and funding despite bids being unsuccessful.
Mrs Dowson said Bradford had the facilities to host events during the year, such as St George’s Hall, City Park and, by then, the former Odeon building.
She said: “This might all seem playful – but culture is what makes us human.”
Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “As a Council we used to do a lot of the cultural events. Unfortunately we can’t do that any more, but we can support people such as yourselves to do this.”
Councillor Debbie Davies (Cons, Baildon) said: “It is difficult to reconcile spending money on this bid for City Of Culture when the Council is making cuts to museums and libraries. Residents want money spent on core services, by approving this you are out of touch with touch with the people who vote for you.
“Everyone knows you only gamble when you can afford to lose. Can we afford to Lose £1.4 million of taxpayers money?”
Councillor Kyle Green (Cons, Ilkley) said: “You should be funding libraries before committing to this. Culture in the district should be celebrated, such as the Dragon Boat Festival and the National Media Museum, but all these will continue even if we don’t have this £1.4 million gamble. Cash should be spent on our cultural treasure – our library services.”
Cllr Hinchcliffe pointed out that the £1.4 million was one-off funding – while the cuts to museums and libraries were ongoing cost savings.
She added: “Remembers the money being cut is due to your government, maybe you should raise the question with them.
“All the cities bidding for City of Culture will all be suffering from some level of austerity, they are all dealing with substantial government cuts.
“If we don’t invest we will never get anything. We have to look at ways of generating income.”
Councillor John Pennington, leader of the Conservatives on Bradford Council, said Bradford was Conservative run during the city’s unsuccessful bid for 2008 Captial of Culture. He added: “I believe we’ve got to join to be in with a chance of winning. Go for it!”
Councillor Adrian Naylor (Ind, Craven) was on the Executive for the 2008 bid, and supported the new bid, adding: “We have had lots of events, and lots of cycling events including the Tour De France, the Tour De Yorkshire and the UCI race. We wouldn’t have got these if we hadn’t speculated.
“”It is not just investing to get an economic return, but to increase local aspirations.”
Councillor Imran Khan, Executive for Education, Employment and Skills said he was “gobsmacked” at the complaints from the Conservative Councillors, adding: “It shows a lack of vision and ambition.”
Cllr Hinchcliffe added: “We have to promote Bradford – if we don’t noone else will do it for us.”
The Executive then voted to support the bid.