Council denies claims Rugby Hall of Fame is drain on taxpayer money - The Rugby Observer

Council denies claims Rugby Hall of Fame is drain on taxpayer money

Andy Morris 23rd Feb, 2018 Updated: 27th Feb, 2018   0

CLAIMS that the World Rugby Hall of Fame is ‘being run at a loss at the taxpayer’s expense’ have been strongly rejected by the leader of Rugby Borough Council (RBC).

Coun Michael Stokes says Rugby Labour Party’s claims that the tourist attraction has failed to generate the promised income – repeated in a Private Eye article – are based on a misunderstanding of figures.

He added the Hall of Fame was never intended to be a commercial project.

The Private Eye article, based on a Freedom of Information request by a contributor from Rugby, claims the annual cost of hosting, licensing and operating the Hall of Fame is nearly £350,000 – on top of an initial £1.2million outlay by RBC.

But a council spokesman said the £1.2million figure was the total cost of running the attraction for an initial four year period, adding that the Private Eye’s local contact had “assumed erroneously that the amount paid in year one is in addition to the overall cost of the project”.

The spokesman also denied Labour’s claim the museum received all-party approval on the basis that it would generate of £500,000 per year, saying there had never been such a forecast.

And while a council agenda states “an underachievement of ticketing income, sponsorship and ancillary services” means the Hall of Fame has so far generated £145,000 less than expected, the spokesman said visitor charges were only introduced part-way through the year to make the attraction more attractive to group visit organisers.

Coun Claire Edwards, leader of Rugby Borough Council’s Labour Group, said: “While it’s important that we recognise the unique heritage of Rugby, we also have a responsibility to ensure taxpayers money is spent in an appropriate way. It’s clear that there is a gap between the amount of money spent when the amount of income from ticket sales is relatively so small.

“The Labour Group has always supported the Hall of Fame but made it clear our concerns that the finances have to stack up and that securing early sponsorship was key.”

She called for the council to “redouble efforts to achieve sponsorship” and “bring forward contingency plans in case the funds do not materialise”.

Coun Stokes said the Private Eye’s local contributor had “misunderstood nearly all of the figures we provided in response to his recent Freedom of Information request”.

He said: “He is also clearly of the view that the World Rugby Hall of Fame was meant to be a commercial project, which is manifestly not the case.

“Councillors from all political groups accepted unanimously there would be a net cost to the council and that the benefits of supporting the diversification of the town centre with a world class visitor attraction outweighed the potential costs.

“For the first time in our history Rugby has a visitor attraction of which our residents can be proud. By working together and with our partners we can make the most of this valuable asset for the benefit of our town centre, our residents and businesses.”

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