This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 09/08/2018.
The price of taking pride
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, hereand 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.