Chorley Council says it hopes the borough’s annual flower show will break even “in the future”, after figures revealed that it has cost the authority over £190,000 to stage the event since it began in 2015.
The running total is likely to increase when the figure for last year’s festival is published, but details have been delayed by an insurance claim following the cancellation of the second day of activities as a result of bad weather.
The average annual subsidy for the Astley Park show stands at more than £63,500 and is taken from the council’s overall events budget which in 2018 totalled £125,000. The total cost to the council for the first three shows was £190,943.
The figures were obtained by Freedom of Information requests by the Conservative opposition group in the borough. Tory councillor Debra Platt told a meeting of the full council that the authority had pledged to “take steps to make the event sustainable” after the inaugural event.
“But after four years, it’s still being subsidised heavily, [amounting to] about 1 percent of the council tax for our population. Will this spend be any more sustainable in 2019?” she asked.
Deputy leader of the Labour-run authority, Peter Wilson, said he expected the final figures for 2018 to show that the cost to the council will have fallen to below £40,000 - putting it within the budget set aside for the July event.
“Fundamentally, it’s got to be a great weekend and a showcase for Chorley,” Cllr Wilson said.
“The ambition is to break even and this year’s plan is to expand the offer of the flower show. We spend a lot of money on the infrastructure, especially the huge marquees - we could use them for longer and have more events going on in the evenings, which increases the income stream.
“But the flower show concept is exceptionally strong - it’s been a huge success in terms of bringing people in. I am confident in future that we will get to the point where it is self-financing or maybe even makes a small profit,” he added.
The total cost of staging the event in 2017 was £139,000, with nearly £80,000 being generated in income. Three quarters of the revenue comes from ticket sales and the remainder from fees charged to exhibitors and sponsorship - which the meeting heard could provide increased opportunities in future years.
Ticket sales have risen steadily from 10,000 for the first event, to nearly 15,000 in 2017, the last time on which it was staged over the full two days. The council is anticipating a 20,000-strong crowd for this year’s show on 27th and 28th July.
It will feature a professional exhibitors’ marquee, show gardens, horticultural trade stands and talks from celebrity gardeners.
Cllr Wilson estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of people attending the event are from Chorley, after Cllr Platt said it was “a shame” that more local residents do not make a vis