Marketing Manchester and the case of the mysterious £800k

Article published: Tuesday, May 25th 2010

Back in February, it was reported that Manchester City Council (MCC) were refusing to attempt to reclaim £420,000 paid to the company Marketing Manchester on the grounds that it would be a “bureaucratic nightmare”.  While the £420,000 may have been an “accident”, it was still part of a long-term strategy of subsidies, set to cost Manchester’s taxpayers millions of pounds in the coming years.

Marketing Manchester became the tourist board for Manchester in 2004. It relies on its relationship as a go-between for local authorities, Manchester-based corporations and bodies such as Manchester Airport Group and the Northwest Development Agency in order to “develop the Manchester brand”. While its subsidiary, VisitManchester, is dedicated almost exclusively to attracting tourists, Marketing Manchester aims to court big business into coming to Manchester in order to promote more business interests. Its income is sourced from AGMA funding, combined with membership and promotion fees from local businesses, plus profit from Manchester-held events.

Take a look at the rogues’ gallery on the board of Manchester Marketing and you’ll notice a few familiar faces. Among them are two Manchester City Council councillors; Brian Harrison and Pat Karney. Two more board members, Cliff Morris and Keith Whitmore, are both AGMA (Association of Greater Manchester Authorities) members. All apart from Whitmore are Labour councillors; Whitmore himself is a Liberal Democrat – the party which called for an enquiry following the scandal of the £420,000.  The remaining board members are from other companies that get frequent mention in MULE Andrew Harrison, commercial director of Manchester Airport Group (MAG), Angie Robinson, CEO of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and MIDAS, and Chief Executive Andrew Stokes, also a board member of Cityco.

When Marketing Manchester became the city’s official tourist board in 2004, it was agreed that Manchester City Council would fund 35 per cent of the public-portion of their funding and that the remaining Greater Manchester Authorities would fund 65 per cent between them. Reports then emerged earlier this year about MCC having bungled their finances and reversed this ratio, meaning that they paid 65 per cent of Marketing Manchester’s public funding. Yet this £420,000 oversight is merely the amount of publicly declared money which MCC have been paying Marketing Manchester since their creation – they also pay them a further annual subsidy. Until recently this subsidy was £265,000, but between the years 2008-2012, Manchester City Council will pay Marketing Manchester a staggering £800,000 each year, on top of the agreed budget of around £250,000. This subsidy is then set to increase to £1 million for every year between 2013-2015.

Since 2004, Manchester City Council has provided Marketing Manchester with £1,081,187 in funding and a further £2,610,000 in “subvention grants”. According to Council documents, this subsidy is supposed to fund the many “major national conferences being held in the City over the coming years”. These are supposed to benefit Manchester by bringing visitors, preferably ones with money to spend, to give Manchester an “enhanced profile”: more big business and more business tourism. A good example of this is the massively hyped Soccerex conference: because we all know that Manchester would otherwise have no association with football. Furthermore, the 2008 budget stated that “to date, £2.35M has been used to subvent 81 conferences”, which doesn’t explain what the remaining £260,000 was used for. We’d very much like to know.

Manchester City Council justify their “investment” by saying that they see “a return on investment of £32.10 per £1 of subvention provided”, but the public services which so badly need this money don’t seem to be the ones getting it. Manchester City Council’s “Supporting People” programme, which provides outreach and support services to around 14,000 people all over Manchester, will see its budget cut by around £2,800,000 in the next three years. What would you rather they spend your money on?

Ruth Michaelson

More: Manchester

Comments

  1. Hmmm…

    “…According to Council documents, this subsidy is supposed to fund the many ‘major national conferences being held in the City over the coming years’…”

    Political party conferences used to just do the rounds between Brighton, Bournemouth and Blackpool. Presumably, when this Marketing Manchester off-shoot was set up in 2004, the venue was already pencilled in for 2005, but funnily enough, Manchester was the venue for the Labour party conference in 2006.

    I wondered back then why all of a sudden Manchester popped up on the party political conference radar… perhaps this is the answer?

    Did it attract any public subsidy?

    Wikipedia lists venues back to 1998:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labour_Party_%28UK%29_Conference

    Also quickly Googled (but double check):
    1997 Brighton
    1996 Blackpool
    1995 Brighton
    1994 Blackpool
    1993 Brighton
    1992 Blackpool
    1991 Brighton

    Comment by Lulu on May 25, 2010 at 1:49 pm
  2. very good research and article. it is outrageous that public services, including the ones mentions and others such as community centres (reported on by mule in the previous months) are being hit, while events which have little bearing – and arguably no long-term effect – on the lives of residents are being subsidised. in the aftermath of the recession with cuts the accepted political mantra why are such haemorrhages of public money not being highlighted more?

    Comment by M on May 25, 2010 at 4:50 pm
  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Henry, MULE. MULE said: Marketing Manchester and the mysterious £800k - thank God the Council aren't wasting money…oh wait, of course – MULE http://shar.es/mjWBV [...]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Marketing Manchester and the case of the mysterious £800k  —   MULE -- Topsy.com on May 27, 2010 at 1:02 am
  4. Marketing Manchester rips Manchester City Councill off

    With jobs cuts forecast already by the city council I fully support the calls for the thousands of pounds (£421.000) which was overpaid to Marketing Manchester last year to be paid back. How at any time, let alone during this current economic climate, the council can sit back and allow such a huge amount of tax payers money to be thrown away is staggering.

    The council claim that it would be too expensive to chase and reclaim this overspend, yet this is the same council who will quite happily chase through the courts and send out very expensive bailiffs to all bad payers of the council tax, parking tickets or any other small sum that is owed to them. This double standard where yet again it is the poor tax payer who suffers for this gross incompetence is quite frankly disgraceful.

    And as an upstanding and reputable organisation surely Marketing Manchester should be quite happily refunding the monies themselves and doing what they know to be the right thing. At the very least this is extreme bad management and at the worst you have to ask just how complicent is the council in this fiasco? Has the council received a back handed payment to encourage them to drop the case? Were Marketing Manchester aware of the overspends as they were occuring but said nothing? These are of course very unpleasant questions, but with such a huge amount of tax payers money being involved here I think we all have the right to ask them, and indeed to demand that they are answered.

    Will the council explain to the next person made redundant, or explain to the next OAP who has had a service cut thats affected them, that perhaps £421,000 could have saved that job or service? How many further police would that put on our streets for a year? How many computers or books would that have bought for our local schools?

    This is a huge amount of OUR money, and I think we all have the right to demand that we get it back.

    Comment by Phil Burke on May 27, 2010 at 11:49 am
  5. Marketing Manchester rips Manchester City Councill off

    With jobs cuts forecast already by the city council I fully support the calls for the thousands of pounds (£421.000) which was overpaid to Marketing Manchester last year to be paid back. How at any time, let alone during this current economic climate, the council can sit back and allow such a huge amount of tax payers money to be thrown away is staggering.

    The council claim that it would be too expensive to chase and reclaim this overspend, yet this is the same council who will quite happily chase through the courts and send out very expensive bailiffs to all bad payers of the council tax, parking tickets or any other small sum that is owed to them. This double standard where yet again it is the poor tax payer who suffers for this gross incompetence is quite frankly disgraceful.

    And as an upstanding and reputable organisation surely Marketing Manchester should be quite happily refunding the monies themselves and doing what they know to be the right thing. At the very least this is extreme bad management and at the worst you have to ask just how complicent is the council in this fiasco? Has the council received a back handed payment to encourage them to drop the case? Were Marketing Manchester aware of the overspends as they were occuring but said nothing? These are of course very unpleasant questions, but with such a huge amount of tax payers money being involved here I think we all have the right to ask them, and indeed to demand that they are answered.

    Will the council explain to the next person made redundant, or explain to the next OAP who has had a service cut thats affected them, that perhaps £421,000 could have saved that job or service? How many further police would that put on our streets for a year? How many computers or books would that have bought for our local schools?

    This is a huge amount of OUR money, and I think we all have the right to demand that we get it back.

    Comment by Emily on June 2, 2010 at 11:33 am
  6. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Henry, MULE. MULE said: Marketing Manchester and the mysterious £800k - thank God the Council aren’t wasting money…oh wait, of course – MULE http://shar.es/mjWBV [...]

    Comment by Amy on June 5, 2010 at 8:44 am
  7. If Manchester Marketing brings so much money into the City. Why is the council sitting on a deficit of £300,000,000? Why has Manchester got some of the highest unemployment rates and people classed as living in poverty. Why are vulnerable and at risk elderly residents left at the mercy of ‘Care in the Community’ when they really need 24 hour care. Manchester Social Services use the excuse it is against their human rights. To slowly starve and dehydrate in their own homes?

    Comment by Patrick Sudlow on June 8, 2010 at 12:59 pm
  8. [...] an article published in May 2010, The Mule newspaper has information about other payments made by Manchester City Council to Marketing [...]

    Pingback by Accounting mistake costs Manchester Council Tax payers £421,000 and it won’t be repaid | g7uk on July 13, 2010 at 7:58 pm
  9. [...] of it on less-important, frivolous things that perhaps we don’t really need. For example, The Mule reports [...]

    Pingback by Why I won’t support the ‘no cuts’ protests | g7uk on November 17, 2010 at 10:54 am
  10. [...] admirable efficiency Marketing Manchester, the public relations agency subsidised over £1 million each year by Manchester City Council to attract tourists and big businesses to the city region, quickly [...]

    Pingback by » I heart corporate MCR - MULE on November 28, 2011 at 10:28 pm

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