£820,000 bill for hosting Stoke-on-Trent leg of Tour of Britain cycling race
HOSTING a Potteries leg of the Tour of Britain has cost city taxpayers more than £820,000 in five years.
But Stoke-on-Trent City Council today defended the investment and claimed that bringing Britain's biggest professional cycling race to the area brought "millions of pounds" in knock-on benefits.
Hundreds of people are expected to line the streets on Thursday to see superstars like Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish lap the county as part of this year's event.
It comes as figures obtained by The Sentinel show the council pays a high price for the privilege of hosting the tour.
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This year's outlay is set to reach almost £163,000. And the total cost of hosting an annual leg since 2008 has topped £827,600.
Organiser Tour of Britain Limited has received annual payments of between £80,000 and £175,000. And thousands more has been spent on PR, security and traffic management.
Some residents' groups have questioned the hefty bill, which comes as the authority is in a major budget-cutting programme driven by Government austerity measures.
Alan Joinson, chairman of East Bentilee Residents' Association, said: "I'm surprised at the costs. It is a lot of money. But it does put Stoke-on-Trent on the map and brings people into the town who wouldn't normally be there.
"If more money is being spent in the shops and pubs, then the cost probably balances itself out."
Councillor Mark Meredith, whose cabinet responsibilities include sport, said: "Hosting world-class sporting events like the Tour of Britain, which brings national heroes to Stoke-on-Trent, is worth millions and millions of pounds in economic and social impact and in raising the profile of the city on a world stage.
"The sport itself has never been more popular. The event is live on ITV4, which means we can project our city and the region to the world and show the event live on a big screen from our city centre.
"In this incredible Olympic year, many places would wish to have Wiggo and Cav racing through their streets."
Councillor Dave Conway, leader of the City Independent group, said: "I'm pleased The Sentinel has looked into these costs. It's only right they are available, so people can make up their own minds.
"It's a very popular event and has a lot of support. Nobody is against it but there could be better ways of funding it."
Setting off from Trentham Gardens at 10.30am, 96 riders in 16 teams will tackle a 93-mile route taking in Stone, Stafford, Rugeley, Uttoxeter and the Moorlands before finishing in Old Hall Street, Hanley.