BEXLEY Council has defended its hefty spending on the “once in a lifetime” Olympic Torch Relay celebrations.
Figures published this week revealed the council topped the list of local authority spending on the relay.
Only Waltham Forest Council spent as much as Bexley, with both councils racking up bills totalling £279,000 according to data obtained by the Press Association through Freedom of Information requests.
Defending the investment, a Bexley Council spokeswoman said: “The Torch Relay and evening celebration were once in a lifetime events and were a great success “Sixty per cent of the total budget, £166,000, was secured from external funds.
“The remaining 40 per cent, £113,000, was met from existing budgets.
“The actual cost to the council was less than 50p per resident.”
Bexley Council said more than 100,000 people turned out to watch the Olympic Torch pass through the borough and 1,650 residents took part in community activities leading up to the day.
The council spokeswoman added: “We focused all our Olympic activity around the day of the Torch Relay and evening celebration, so all our Olympic costs are included in the figure we provided.
“For example, we organised four special events along the relay route and we were the only London Borough to host the Mayor of London’s ‘Showtime Festival’ on the day of the Torch Relay.
“Without the cost of these additional cultural programmes, our costs are more directly comparable with other boroughs.”
It was also pointed out that unlike other council’s, Bexley Council declined the offer to buy Olympic tickets.
The Olympic Torch came to Bexley on July 22 last year, 65 days into the relay.
Arriving in the borough on a boat that docked at Erith Yacht Club, 40 torchbearers carried the flame along the eight-mile route towards Danson Park.
The lowest spend was in Trafford Metropolitan Borough, where just £1,500 was invested.
Chairman of the local government association's culture, tourism and sport board Flick Rea said: "The torch relay was a huge logistical challenge.
“Without council efforts in managing thousands of road closures, recruiting a small army of volunteer marshals, setting up safety barriers and managing crowds, cleaning up after the cavalcade and handling a vast range of other issues, it simply wouldn't have happened.”
What do you think? Can spending this amount of money on the Torch Relay be justified? Have you say below.