The successful bid by Hartlepool Council to host the 2010 Tall Ships Race has been seen by most people as an unqualified good news story. However, doubts are now surfacing about the actual benefits of the Tall Ships Race coming to Hartlepool.
I asked similar questions in Hartlepool Council Chamber not long after Hartlepool won the bid to host the race. I asked to be reassured that hosting the race would not be a similar experience to hosting the Olympics. Massive expense for a short term gain which leaves local residents picking up the bills for years to come.
I feel a back bench Councillor, like myself, is duty bound to ask difficult questions of the Mayor and his cabinet, to ensure they have really thought through their schemes. The bid to host the race was submitted at short notice after Race Organisers asked Hartlepool Council to apply. That itself should have rung alarm bells. If the race is such a wonderful event for the host town then surely there would be a waiting list to be the host?
The bid was not subject to full scrutiny by the Councillors and in my opinion the maths never added up. Voicing such doubts was not popular in Hartlepool Council Chamber and rather than having my concerns answered I was ridiculed, accused of negativity and trying to pull the town down.
Since winning the bid Hartlepool has received some publicity, the Council has created some extra jobs and the Mayor is off for a "fact finding" mission to study how other towns hosted the race. It is my most sincere hope that the Tall Ships race will be a huge success, but, I worry that when the hype and razzmatazz is over the on-going costs the town's residents will have to cover will massively outweigh any real long term benefits.