Council denies free summer shows are a waste of money

BIG HIT... pop fans enjoying one of last summers free concerts in South Shields.

BIG HIT... pop fans enjoying one of last summers free concerts in South Shields.

TOWN hall bosses have hit back at claims that they have wasted nearly £300,000 on celebrity concerts since 2010.

South Tyneside Council was featured in a national newspaper article critical of how much local authorities spend on hiring stars for public performances.

Council chiefs in South Tyneside spent £285,600 on hiring acts including Joe McElderry, Toploader, Rick Astley, The South and The Christians to appear at free concerts in Bents Park, South Shields, over the last four summers.

But a leading borough politician insists they were worth every penny, saying the shows had helped generate millions of pounds for the borough’s tourist economy.

The newspaper said critics believed performers like Stacey Solomon, Little Mix, Gareth Gates and Matt Cardle were of “dubious benefit”, and the story also referred to the concerts as a “taxpayer-funded knees-ups”.

However, South Tyneside’s deputy leader, Coun Alan Kerr, has defended the events, saying they bring hundreds of tourists and millions of pounds into the borough.

Coun Kerr, also the authority’s lead member for culture and leisure, said: “The council’s hugely popular summer festival attracted more than 100,000 visitors to our borough last year.

“Tourism supports thousands of jobs in South Tyneside, and visitors to our seafront festival spent an estimated £1.3m with local businesses.

“People travelled from all over the North East and Yorkshire to experience the fabulous entertainment.

“Tourism is worth more than £200m a year to the local economy, and our investment in music and festival events is a vital part of our work to create jobs and regenerate the area.

“With our annual summer festival having record audiences in 2013, we will look to build upon that with a fantastic programme of live music and family fun for this year.”

Michael Sheeran, one of the operators of Ocean Beach Pleasure Park, opposite Bents Park, said he is a fan of the alfresco shows.

He said: “The concerts are certainly a boost for the seafront and the local area.

“You do see a difference on the day of the concerts, and you get a lot of new customers that you might not normally see.

“The investment is definitely working, and I completely agree with what the council is doing.

“I live in Sunderland, and people regularly talk about all the events the council puts on in South Shields.

“It’s a well-established run of events that bring people and money to the area and, obviously, people have a good time.

“The council has invested a lot in the seafront, and it has definitely been worthwhile.

“These concerts ensure that people can continue to enjoy the seafront and that the council can continue to invest in the area.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazvicki




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