Once again the Council have decided to gamble with £40,000 of our tax funded money.
At the Finance committee meeting held on Tuesday 17th January it was provisionally decided to provide £10,000 per year funding for the Mayflower 400 project. However Councillors were offended by the tone of the letter requesting that funding written by the project Director, Peter Conisbee.
In requesting the funding Mr Conisbee sought to chastise the Council for their lack of support, something that was not well received by some councillors, one of who threatened to ” go round and sort him out with a baseball bat!” Cllr Springett may regret that comment coming out in print. Clearly this is not a good start to an important project for Dartmouth.
I personally have very different concerns to the Council which I will outline here:
- What has the Mayflower project team been doing for the last year or so? I received an invitation to join the Mayflower 400 Business subcommittee over a year ago when I was still Chairman of the Dartmouth Business Forum.I have heard nothing since.
- I have seen little evidence of their publicity/marketing activities such as a website, social media platforms, newsletters to the public (even paper will do). They have not even invited the Chamber of Trade to participate in their committee.
- The project programme submitted to the Council, which requires estimated funding of £360,000 does not include any marketing activities at all. So how will people know about the many events that are planned in the town? How will the town possibly benefit from this event if it has no long term strategic marketing plan for the next 5 years. (it needs to look at legacy events after 2020) and how much cost will be incurred by this marketing programme?
- How can the Mayflower 400 group have confidence in their project Director when it was he who was responsible for terminating the best funding opportunity Mayflower 400 Dartmouth had last year with the Dartmouth BID. With £500,000 worth of marketing funding, backed by 2 out of 3 of Dartmouth businesses that voted, it would have been the perfect funding platform for this project and would have almost guaranteed that the BID was renewed for a further 5 year project, as in 95% of other BID’s. The timing of the BID appeared perfect. In the event Mayflower 400 was given a mere £3000 cash by the BID.
- To again draw comparisons, the failure of the BID was a result of a lack of management, marketing and leadership skills from both board members and the 2 chairs that succeeded me on the BID Board. So we need to be sure that we don’t make the same mistakes again. Those skills are in the town but they must be encouraged to join the Mayflower 400 project team.
- One of the BID’s biggest problems was the failure of the Board to communicate effectively with levy payers. They had a good website that they didn’t use, facebook and twitter accounts that were neglected and so on. Meetings were chaotic with the first AGM almost resulting in a Board with no members due to an illogical voting system. If we fail to learn the important lessons of the BID them we will make them again. The Mayflower project team needs to communicate their plans effectively and frequently or the project will be a disappointment for the town.
- Finally I will remind Councillors that your vote last year against closure of the Dartmouth BID, and for its continuance under new management, (on the basis that it was a vitally important investment in Dartmouth) was ignored by the Chairman of the BID. That Chairman is now the Project Director of the Mayflower 400 project, who is asking you for funding. He already had the funding in his pocket but handed £62000 back to the businesses of Dartmouth (except me of course, as a voluntary levy payer I have not seen my refund yet and probably never will). If I was in your shoes I would be looking very closely at the leadership, skills and commitment of this project team, and asking for more detailed plans and budgets, before offering serious funding.
Mayflower 400 is a vital project for Dartmouth and we cannot afford to mess this one up like the BID.