Spending For Olympic Torch Relay Revealed

The south coast's councils spent more than £170,000 hosting the Olympic Torch Relay for last year's Games.

Figures published on the one-year anniversary of the start of the relay show England's largest local councils spent more than £6 million in total.

On average, authorities paid out just over £40,000 to host the flame, funding items such as security and street furniture, as well as road-closure notices and evening celebrations.

The data shows Portsmouth City Council paid £58,774.40 to hos the event; Southampton £46,000; Isle of Wight £11,680; and West Sussex £2,997.52.

Hampshire County Council, as well as Buckinghamshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, North Yorkshire and Somerset, did not record any expenditure, saying costs - apart from whatever staff overtime was incurred but not calculable - were met by the district authorities or town councils.

The biggest spends were in the London boroughs of Bexley and Waltham Forest, who both forked out in excess of £279,000, while more than a dozen other authorities recorded six-figure sums to host the Torch.

Those councils who enjoyed multiple visits from the iconic flame and its formidable entourage often reported larger spends than those whose glimpse of the parade was fleeting, while larger authorities with huge populations understandably spent more than their smaller counterparts.

More than 150 councils were asked to provide details of their expenditure, with Trafford Metropolitan Borough's £1,500 the lowest recorded.

A clutch of county councils said they had spent nothing or that data was not available. The figures were obtained by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act.

Flick Rea, chairman of the Local Government Association's culture, tourism and sport board, said councils wanted to make the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity memorable.

She said:

"The torch relay was a huge logistical challenge.

"Without council efforts in managing thousands of road closures, recruiting a small army of volunteer marshals, setting up safety barriers and managing crowds, cleaning up after the cavalcade and handling a vast range of other issues, it simply wouldn't have happened.

"The cost to each council could be affected by many things. Few, if any, meaningful conclusions can be drawn by comparing expenditure on an issue with so many variables."

The flame arrived in Cornwall on 18th May from Athens on a flight which counted former England football captain David Beckham among its passengers.

But it was Olympic sailing hero Ben Ainslie - who would go on to win a record-breaking fourth gold medal later in the Games - who was the first to run with the torch, when he left Land's End among much fanfare and international media coverage the following morning.

Many authorities also reported a significant boost to the local economy. Surrey County Council spent £126,232.38, arranging and paying for all the road closures as the torch weaved around the county. The Games themselves are said to have boosted the area's coffers by £44 million.

Some councils kept their spends low by receiving donations "in kind", such as in Solihull, where a local contractor offered £2,500 worth of street cleaning.

Several councils also said their spends were incorporated into existing budgets. This included Hartlepool, who recorded a total of £14,848.16 to host the torch but said this was top-sliced from the annual maritime festival budget held the preceding week.

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