An investigation by council officers has found that the King's Coronation event held by Calne Town Council in May 2023, cost twice the agreed budget.
Calne's Picnic in the Park took place on Saturday 6th May at the Rec. Visitors braved the terrible weather to watch and celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III on a big screen. Throughout the day there was entertainment including stilt walkers, Calne Samba Band and a bubbleologist. Into the evening there was live music from local bands.
It has now been revealed that the event which had originally been allocated a budget of £10,000, ended up costing £20,220.
A confidential report was provided for councillors at the Full Council meeting on 29th January detailing the overspend and reasons why it had happened.
Cllr Jon Fisher proposed the full details of the overspend should be shared with the public but his fellow councillors voted against the move.
Althought the budget had been set at £10,000, there was an expectation that money would have been made from the event which would have covered additional expenses. However, on the day, the heavens opened and the majority of those wishing to watch the Coronation opted to do so from the warmth of their own homes. Events from all across the UK reportedly lost money at similar events due to a downturn in footfall.
The report indicated that other factors leading to the overspend were caused by 'strong personalities' within the council who had gone ahead with bookings and organising the event, believing the success and revenue that would be earned would outweigh the cost.
Following discussions regarding the overspend at the Full Council Meeting, Councillor Jon Fisher made a proposal that the report should be discussed in public and be included in the publicly published meeting papers. He told the meeting that he believed Calne Town Council should be transparent when it has failed, and that it should always seek to be a learning council, adding: "holding these actions up to the light would show that we are".
The proposal to discuss this item in public was defeated. Councillors decided that making the information public could potentially cause 'possible slanderous comments to be made about ex-members of staff'.
Cllr Fisher told us: "Council officers recommended the report be dealt with in confidential terms as it contained staffing recommendations. I don’t think this holds water. It doesn’t matter how uncomfortable previous and current staff find this – it’s public money and the public has a right to know."
A town council spokesperson told us: "The Council had agreed a budget for the event of £10,000 but costs exceeded the initial budget.
"Whilst it was hoped that sponsorship and other income would be generated, the weather played a part in that income was lower than hoped during the daytime events.
"This was a once in a generation event for the town and there was public support to celebrate the occasion and create memories for those who attended. These additional costs will be met from savings made elsewhere in the annual budget."