Calls are mounting for the millions of pounds of taxpayers money set aside to fund next year’s Tour de Yorkshire to be used to stage a cultural festival across a wide area following the international cycling race’s cancellation.
Leading councillors have said the public purse funds that local authorities in the four-day race’s host towns had earmarked for the event should be used to bankroll the week-long Festival of Yorkshire which Welcome to Yorkshire had hoped to run alongside the race.
While Welcome to Yorkshire boss James Mason has said the tourism body will not give up on hosting a further edition of the cycling race to promote the region, elected community representatives said an expansive event celebrating the region’s food and drink, arts and culture, heritage and music would act as a springboard for the economy after the pandemic.
North Yorkshire County Council set aside up to £200,000 for next year’s event.
The authority’s leader, Councillor Carl Les, said he hoped the race’s organisers could look at whether the festival programme element of the Tour de Yorkshire could still be held next year.
He said: “I would support continuing with the festival idea, which was the idea linked to the cycle race. I do hope that the race is only postponed and that we will be talking about having a race again in 2023.
“It’s hard to think of another event that touches so many different parts of the county and the region of Yorkshire and joins them all up together.”
When asked to comment on calls for the money to be used to enable more people to cycle, he said the county council was already spending “a considerable amount of money on developing cycling routes”.
He added the money saved from next year’s Tour de Yorkshire would not go far in developing the network in North Yorkshire.
Earlier this year, Richmondshire District Council agreed to earmark a total of about £300,000 to give to the race’s organisers, despite an apparent growing unease about taxpayers money being used to prop up races run by the profit-making Amaury Sport Organisation.
Councillor Kevin Foster, leader of the Green Party and Independent group on the authority said he was delighted at the decision to cancel next year’s event, as the council could “reallocate that money to a better use”.
He said: “It has been a tough couple of years and we need to use out taxpayers money carefully, not promoting a race that a private company had no intention to share profits after using tax payers money to promote and under pin the event.”
The authority’s leader Councillor Angie Dale said she had been saddened by the cancellation of next year’s event, but highlighted the authority’s ruling group had agreed two years ago that the race would be the last Tour de Yorkshire it would fund.
She said: “Obviously the money is there and we do need to reinvest it. I would like to see something like a festival of Richmondshire, throughout the whole district, which is what we thought we were getting as part of the race. It was the only reason we bought into it.
“It will be the last year for the district council before local government reorganisation and we need something that’s going to see us into the future.
“We have so many festivals, like the Swaledale and Wensleydale festivals, going on, but is there a way of establishing and broadening them throughout the district?”