Now I have nothing against people enjoying themselves, in fact there should be more of it, and yes it does in theory give opportunity for the Ponty name to be mentioned, but for several years now people have been asking what benefit it actually brings. Not just RCT Lib Dems, although of course we will be accused by some of being negative and just trying to score political points! (although I have never managed to figure out what political points we are supposed to be gaining unless people agree with us!?)
Now we have complained about the fact that the Park is completely shut off to anyone not attending the concert even though not all of it is used and they could surely cordon off the paddling pool and playground so that could remain in use? Then there is the inconvenience of the road closures and the fact that traffic is diverted through residential streets which are themselves thronged with pedestrians returning from the concert.
But these could be classed as minor inconveniences, well worth it for the benefits it brings, except that apart from providing a good day out for those who attend it is hard to see what they are.
Traders in Pontypridd have suffered enough, not just from the general economic pressures, but during months of ‘regeneration’ works. They are at rock bottom, and have not been helped by the Council dragging their heels over even looking at rate relief. They cannot afford to lose any more trade. These are people who are the life blood of the town and who are there week in week out, not just for one weekend a year.
I went into town on Saturday hoping that what we have been saying would be proved wrong, and that the place would be filled with people. Instead I found the town centre car park that on most Saturdays is very busy was at best two thirds full. Rather than being brought into town by the event shoppers, and indeed it seems other visitors, were staying away. Well, the Park was shut so that wasn’t going to bring people in.
Still there must be some greater good coming from this right? Local traders must benefit from sales of food and drink when the thousands of people arrive at 3.30 for the start of the concert?
Or not. Because of course concert goers weren’t allowed to take any food or drink into the concert area, not so much as a bottle of pop or a bag of crisps. If they wanted to eat between 3.30 and 9.30 then they had to pay the inflated prices to buy from the vendors inside the secure area.
Just to make sure that there was a little chance as possible of people walking through town signs directed concert goers to the Goods yard car park which meant many did not have to walk past any shops other than the few in Bridge Street.
In response to an FOI request which asked “What was the estimated amount of income generated for local businesses / traders from the Big Weekend event last year” the Council said that “Whilst not all suppliers are RCT based, a significant number are based in South Wales.”
They claimed that “In recent years the direct economic impact can be calculated in excess of £600,000.”
This is rather odd as last year in a statement to the press they claimed ““The event already brings £1m worth of additional spend into the town” - this in response to complaints from the cricket club that the pitch would be unplayable afterwards for most of the season.
So it would seem that they simply have no idea and are merely picking random figures out of the air.
To top all of this off there is the unbelievable statement from the Council that costs are shared between the council and Orchard Entertainment at a ratio of 35 : 65 but that “This is not a profit making event for the Council.”
WHY NOT? If I were investing 35% of the cost of an event such a s this then I am damned sure I would want 35% share of the profits. Instead the Council seem happy to do all this and not make a penny. How ridiculous is that? They are in effect subsidising Orchard Entertainment and other private companies with taxpayers money.
This at a time when cutbacks are being made across every other area of public spending. As Victor Meldrew would say “I don’t believe it.”
Methinks more questions need to be asked.