Sidmouth Town Council, Annual Town Meeting 2012 - a question about FolkWeek finances.

The following question was posed at the Annual Town Meeting held at Sidford Social Hall on 19 April 2012.

I hope this question can be accepted for the town meeting on 19 April. Unfortunately I am unable to attend.

The background is given on my webpages folk193.htm and folk194.htm. These are both in draft form.

Over the last few years expenditure by Sidmouth Town Council has doubled whilst that of District and County Councils has been severely curtailed. Reducing public expenditure should not comprise simply passing costs of services from one council to another.

Support for the new style folk festival has risen from a grudging 5000 in 2005 to 25,000 in 2012. This now includes 5000 for social dance support - despite that the new Stowford Centre venue should cost only around 1200 to 1500 to hire for the evening dances that are proposed. The remaining expenditure (from the 5000) is apparently proposed for 'advertising and promotion' - none of which is arguably necessary because all the experienced dancers who could benefit from the new venue will hear about it via established channels and at no cost to local taxpayers.

In addition the festival could easily increase ticket prices (rather than reduce them by effectively 10% this year) to reduce the need for public subsidy.

My question therefore relates to the overall management of finances in Sidmouth Town Council:

Is it not time that Sidmouth Town Council began a programme of reducing overall expenditure by maybe 10% per year for the next 5 years? This could be achieved by divesting itself of responsibilities and/or staff where these have been rendered effectively redundant (because duplicate publicity for events and accommodation etc is now so widely available on the internet) or (in the case of the Folk Festival and Britain in Bloom) where a greater proportion of funds could and should be provided commercially instead of from local taxpayers?

Stephen J Wozniak.

The written response (which didn't actually answer the question at all!) was given in an email from the Town Clerk, dated 29 May 2012, as follows.

Thank you for your email and my apologies for not having ‘forwarded’ the reply to your question which I did indeed read out at the Annual Town Meeting.

As you rightly point out the meeting was focussed on the Local Plan but not before other issues were talked about. The answer given (via Sidmouth Folk week of course) is copied below.

Christopher E Holland
Town Clerk

I suspect that your questioner may not appreciate that (i) the grant is for 'the general development of Social Dance within the Festival' and (ii) to be effective requires us to employ the full range of artistic management, marketing, event production and admin resources. This is a general remit which includes the use of Stowford Rise as an important component, but not solely limited to that and thus has a number of other important elements.

In general terms, we have increased the attractiveness of the Social Dance programme by booking additional higher profile bands and callers to provide an improved experience and greater variety. Our specific marketing of Social Dance has also been significantly enhanced with additional leaflets being distributed by a specialist Social dance magazine service to Social Dance clubs across the country. In addition, we taken additional national advertising in suitable magazines. This targeted marketing aims to raise Sidmouth FolkWeek's profile amongst this community.

To ensure that the facilities offered are the best available, we have taken booked Stowford Rise for 5 hours each evening for a main evening dance (and additional time on Sunday). To ensure that access is made as easy as possible we are extending the Festival bus service to and from Stowford at appropriate times in the early and late evening periods

Cost Breakdown(): Some items are portions of total costs and some estimated at this stage.

Fees and accommodation costs for extra bands and callers to enhance Social Dance Programme. 1000

Delivery and Distribution of 4000 leaflets to Social Dance Clubs across the country 750

Printing of extra leaflets to enable above 400

Further National Advertising in periodicals appropriate to Social Dance 750

Stowford Rise Hire 1670

Transport Costs to divert to Stowford 250

Admin. related to above (balancing figure) 180

TOTAL 5000

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