WHERE IS THE REAL REPORT THOUGH?
REVEALED: How Mathew Street fiasco began a year ago
Nov 16 2007 Daily Post
Mathew Street festival (320)
A long-awaited report into the Mathew Street fiasco today lifted the lid on what went wrong in the months leading up to the event’s shock cancellation on safety grounds just weeks before it was due to take place.
As the Daily Post revealed today, event manager Lee Forde and Culture Company operations director Chris Green are blamed.
Both would have faced disciplinary action if they had not already resigned.
But the chain of events appears to have started in February when council leader Warren Bradley and regeneration boss councillor Mike Storey took money from the festival’s budget to help pay for a son et lumiere show and enhanced 800th birthday celebrations
Opposition councillors today branded the report a “political cover-up” saying officers no longer employed by the council were being used as scapegoats.
The report says:
- £400,000 was allocated for this year’s festival, £200,000 less than the cost of the 2006 event, after council leaders diverted funds.
- Mr Forde blamed staffing and budget issues for not making progress with the festival plan but a definite budget was not agreed with Mr Green at an early stage.
- Early warning signs that Mr Forde’s work was not up to scratch were not identified or acted on by Mr Green.
- Mr Green did not act quickly enough to replace Mr Forde when he handed in his notice on June 4 even though he was due to quit the Culture Company days before the Mathew Street Festival.
- Council chief executive Colin Hilton and Culture Company chief executive Jason Harborow were not told of the police’s concerns and the work needed to hold the event until July 11.
- Mr Hilton says he told Cllr Bradley of police concerns before he went on holiday on July 21 although the council leader disputes this.
The report reveals it was “widely known” in November 2006 that the Pier Head - previously the main stage site - was no longer available.
But the problems with this year’s festival appear to have stemmed from an un-minuted meeting on February 21 – attended by Warren Bradley, Mike Storey, council chief executive Colin Hilton and Chris Green.
Evidence suggests “Chris Green proposed either cancelling the Mathew Street Festival altogether or holding it as a one-day event (with five stages) in order to produce some of the savings required to fund the son et lumiere and birthday celebrations”.
Mr Green’s recollection is that the suggestion was rejected by Cllr Bradley who said it “had to be held over three days”.
Cllr Bradley’s recollection is that he and Cllr Storey agreed a two-day festival could be held.
The report says: “With previous year’s costs at £600,000 Lee Forde put in a budget proposal of £600,000 for Mathew Street festival but received an initial allocation of £500,000.
“The councillors’ subsequent requirement that it was run as a two to three day event and then Cllr Storey’s insistence in March that an unfunded event be funded by savings being made from the festival and 800th birthday fireworks display budgets rather reduced the ability to deliver the festival to the scale required by councillors.”
It adds: “Cllr Storey insisted upon the funding of the son et lumiere event in the knowledge that such funding would result in a reduction of the funds available for the 800th birthday fireworks display and the Mathew Street festival.”
“Chris Green updated Cllr Bradley and Cllr Storey separately in May with a relatively detailed outline of the proposal.
“No evidence of any further communication to members of issues and concerns with the festival was found.”
But the budget changes were not properly discussed between Mr Forde and Mr Green.
The report says: “Without this revised budget Mr Forde claims that he could not proceed with planning the event by way of completion of the event document.
“Given the seniority of Lee Forde it is reasonable to expect that he would bring this issue to Chris Green as an example of one of the budget issues Chris Green had asked to be told about.
“At the same time Chris Green should have ensured that Lee Forde had clear information as to what his budget was and to what extent, if any, it could be exceeded.”
The report then alleges Mr Forde had “clear instructions” from the police and councillors by mid- April of what was expected but “failed to progress the plans”.
It says: “It is around May that one would expect the pace of the planning to increase, but instead it seems to have slowed down.
“Lee Forde used the budget issues as a reason for not progressing the plans, but he failed to communicate this to Chris Green, who could reasonably expect Lee Forde to have been finalising the plans.
“At the same time, given Cllr Bradley and Cllr Storey’s requirements, which Chris Green was fully aware of, one would expect Chris Green to be taking a more active role in planning for the event.
“He failed to do this and Lee Forde was left largely to his own devices.”
The report speaks of “early warning signs” that Mr Forde was “not fully focused and committed to delivering a successful Mathew Street festival”.
It says: “Chris Green failed to act on those signs even after Lee Forde resigned on June 4. “Chris Green took too long in starting the recruitment process for a replacement and should have been more decisive with Lee Forde immediately following his resignation.”
The report reveals that as early as May 2007 police were concerned enough to be considering commissioning an “independent inspection”.
But Chris Green suggested they did not proceed because the Culture Company “already used an independent safety adviser for Mathew Street”.
The cancellation could even have been avoided if action had been taken in early June, the report claims, and work requested by the police on June 5 had been done.
It says: “It was a month later when Chris Green started to appreciate the amount of work to be done. His failure to get a replacement event manager appointed, adequately resourced and briefed in time was a significant factor that led to the eventual cancellation.”
Lack of communication between Mr Forde and Mr Green is criticised by the report.
It says: “It was not until July 4 that Chris Green was fully aware of the significant amount of work to be done and the level of concern the other agencies, predominantly the police, had about the festival. He should have been aware of those problems far earlier and alerted Jason Harborow, but he failed to do so.”
Mr Hilton and Mr Harborow found out about police concerns on July 11 and took “appropriate action based partially on information given to them by Chris Green at the time”.
In late July, consultants Capita Symonds were commissioned to look at safety plans for the event amid police and Culture Company concerns.
They recommended delaying the event by six months, effectively forcing its cancellation.
The report says: “Allegedly, Colin Hilton alerted Cllr Bradley about the police concerns and that officers were taking action to deal with them before Cllr Bradley went on holiday on July 21.
“At this stage, Colin Hilton understood the concerns were not of a degree that could not be dealt with or that subsequently might force a cancellation. Cllr Bradley’s recollection of this differs.”
The report ends by saying Mr Green and Mr Ford would both face disciplinary investigations if they had not both resigned from the council already.
It also recommends the Culture Company’s communications process is reviewed “as a matter of urgency”.