The price of taking pride


By - Thursday 9th August, 2018

Is it right that Croydon Council makes payments to different cultural groups in the borough?


Croydon PrideFest.
Photo author’s own.

On Saturday 14th July Croydon PrideFest took place with a march to, and a main stage in, Wandle Park. This was the third annual Croydon Pride and a great day out. I’ve attended all three and each year it has grown bigger. It was held a week after London Pride, and it was impressive to see so many people out. I won’t pretend to be an art or festival critic, and I’ve never been to a pride event outside of Croydon, but I can say that the music was good, the beer flowing, and the weather sunny.

Croydon Pride is a registered charity, which runs the Croydon PrideFest event. Its aims include “advancing education in LGBTQ+ equality and diversity” and “foster[ing] understanding between Croydon’s diverse communities”.  It also states “…the purpose of keeping Croydon PrideFest a free event for all over the coming years. Croydon Pride receives no core government funding and funds are instead raised in a variety of ways including donations, sponsorship and fundraising events”.

Croydon Council is the main sponsor of this year’s event, which means that you pay for it. This raises the question of what is meant by ‘free’, and what is meant by ‘no core government funding’. I’ve not been able to find a press release on how much this sponsorship costs. However, Croydon Council does publish details of all payments over £500. This shows that in 2018 so far £35,000 has been paid to Croydon Pride Ltd as part of the Culture Growth fund, and a further £500 paid as part of a Community Ward budget. This is on top of £16,750 in 2017 from community ward budgets and small grant funds.

Wouldn’t an event like this be better paid for by those who attend it?

I’ve enjoyed Croydon Pride over the last three years and it adds to the town, but is it right that Croydon’s council tax payers are forced to pay for an event clearly not aimed at, nor attracting, great swathes of the communities of Croydon? Wouldn’t an event like this be better paid for by those who attend it? Croydon Pride is attended most years by one or more of the local MPs, many councillors, and, judging by the price of drinks, people with a decent disposable income. It’s hard to believe that no one else would be the main sponsor for this. If they can’t find sponsors to meet this total, then – like any other event – shouldn’t it cut its cloth to meet the funding available?

The Culture Growth fund payments make interesting reading. Between January 2017 and May 2018, payments over £500 total over £624,000. This includes £5,000 to the Crystal Palace International Film Festival, £9,500 to the Festival of Peace, £5,000 to the Oval Tavern, £15,000 to ArtHalo, and another £19,370 to the RISE Gallery, among many others. Is this the most effective use of the money that you and I are forced to pay? Some of these organisations have been involved in politically controversial events; is it appropriate that you are made to pay for something that you disagree with?

By means of full disclosure, I should add that £1,000* came to the Croydon Citizen. All of these payments were no doubt made for commendable reasons, and were subject to the appropriate administrative and political scrutiny. That makes them legal, maybe even popular, but not necessarily right.

The council often complains about the need to protect services

Tony Newman and other leading members of the council often complain about the funding that the council receives, the need to protect services, and austerity – as they have done here, here, here and here. However, the case for a lack of funding is somewhat undermined when you can find £160,000 for Boxpark, as it did in 2017. I do also hope that the events put on by the Remarkable Productions Company Ltd were worth the £42,000 paid to them.

At a time when funding is meant to be tight, could this have been better spent on rescuing children’s services from their inadequate Ofsted judgment? Could the funding fix our roads? Improve our schools? Fund more services to help stop knife crime?

Even if the council was flush with your money, is it right that you fund these events? Next year, if Croydon’s PrideFest charges, say, £5 to get in, or has lots of commercial sponsors advertising to me, I’m sure that I will still attend… or maybe I won’t. Either way, the user, not the general taxpayer, should pay for the event. I don’t believe that most families in Croydon are flush enough to spend £35,000 on a photo op. It’s not clear that the council is, or should be, either.


* Editor’s note: the £1,000 paid to the Croydon Citizen by Croydon Council was for sponsored coverage to help promote cultural events and boost attendance.

Michael Swadling

Michael Swadling

Michael works in the IT Industry for and has lived in Croydon all of his life. He has been a governor in local schools for over twelve years. During the referendum he was the Croydon Area Manager for Vote Leave, Now promoting Classical Liberalism and Freedom. Visit Croydon Constitutionalist for events and articles on Classical Liberalism in our area http://croydonconstitutionalists.uk/. Former UKIP candidate for Croydon North and Croydon Council.

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  • Jonathan Law

    How much does the cycle race cost (outside of industry sponsorship) and whom does it benefit?

    • Michael Swadling

      Jonathan – It looks like the Cycle race was cancelled and cost ~£100k https://insidecroydon.com/2018/03/02/council-to-save-100000-by-axing-2018-croydon-cyclefest/

      I’m not aware (and I’m not saying it doesn’t) that say the South End Food Festival costs the taxpayers of Croydon anything. The principle should be user pays. This may be a pay to enter, it may be a pay in prices as people charged a rent pass this on in the product, or it may be a ‘pay’ in being advertised to by sponsors. We pay our money in taxes on the understanding that it pays for critical services, not politicians photo opportunities.

    • Andrew Watson

      Well said. I don’t benefit from every event Croydon council decide to give some backing to but glad that they exist and that the choice exists.
      If events only existed if commercially viable then i suspect very little would occur in our borough.
      There’s also an argument that events bring money into the area but it’s hard to measure that.
      Of course we’ve all meet those dull people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

      • Michael Swadling

        Andrew,

        What makes you think that little would happen if judged only by commercially viability? Most ever week we have a lot of sports events (commercially viable), fetes / fairs (commercial viable), pubs / clubs (commercially viable) running in our town, It rather strikes me its events that are more popular with the political or arty (dare I say upper middle) classes that find themselves funded, but the events more popular with the great masses aren’t. If these events have a value – great the attendees should be willing to pay for it.

        • Andrew Watson

          And often that’s what happens once these events grow, they do become commercially viable although somewhat altered as a result. Hence it’s great that we have bodies that can assist getting more varied and diverse activities off the ground. If Croydon pride had be launched several years ago as a chargeable event I suspect it would have failed. Council funding has assisted making it successful.

          • Michael Swadling

            Andrew – do you really believe that? Do you think the Council / Pride has a plan to make this a standalone event? If they do
            why is it not published as it’s our money paying for it. The event was much bigger this year (not sure the attendance was) and rather than finding commercial funding for that we the taxpayer just paid more. If as you suggest the council is really a venture capitalist for the borough I’ve got a few ideas needing a tax free gift of £35k!

  • Anne Giles

    I heartily agree with you!

    • Michael Swadling

      Anne,

      Thank-you. The basic premise is it’s a great event. I’ve enjoyed it every year that’s why I keep coming back. I just don’t think you or anyone else should be forced by law to pay for my entertainment choices.

      Mike

  • CitizenKen

    I don’t benefit directly from council spending on young people, old people and ill people but I am happy to live in a civilised society that pays to look after people. I don’t benefit from the street lamps in Purley; only those in Addiscombe but I don’t begrudge those in the south of the borough their light. I don’t benefit from most of the cultural events but at the same time I am happy that Croydon has cultural events. There is a meanness in your “Classical Liberalism and Freedom” that feels more American than British.

    • Michael Swadling

      Good switch there. We broadly all benefit from spending when young, old or ill. We don’t all benefit from the council choosing some events and lunch counters to subsidise and others to tax. Classical Liberalism and freedom (I mean really you’re against freedom!) is of course something that has its roots in our great nation and the. Went to the Americas.

      • CitizenKen

        Your profile above describes you as a promoter of “Classical liberalism and freedom” , hence my use of inverted commas, a reference to your stated agenda. Of course I like freedom but, as I suspect, most people (and, indeed, most liberals) do , I believe it has to be tempered by protection for those who would otherwise be left behind. Only the most lunatic libertarian fetishises complete freedom. Our great nation also has a noble history of struggle against oppression , exemplified, for example,by the Chartists, the trade unions and the women’s movement,

        • Michael Swadling

          “tempered by protection for those who would otherwise be left behind” is great I’d like my taxes spent on that as well. I don’t think those left behind are the people paying £5+ for a drink at Pride or in BoxPark. I suspect they could cope without a taxpayer subsidy.