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Last Updated: Friday, 6 June, 2003, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Culture bid spending examined
The failure of Belfast's bid was greeted with shock and disappointment
The failure of Belfast's bid was greeted with shock and disappointment
Northern Ireland's Audit Office is examining Belfast's failed attempt to become the European capital of culture, it has emerged.

All invoices and documentation collected by bid organisers Imagine Belfast are being checked by investigators.

Belfast failed to make the final shortlist of six in October for the title of European Capital of Culture 2008, which was won this week by Liverpool.

The failure of the bid, on which 1m of public money was spent, was greeted with shock and disappointment at the time.

The Audit Office will examine how a 850,000 grant from the Department of Culture, Arts and Learning was spent by Imagine Belfast, as well as another 150,000 from Belfast City Council and private funding.

Comptroller and Auditor General John Dowdall has not decided whether a report would be published.

A government source emphasised there was no suggestion that "anything untoward" was going on.

"It's just a case of looking at the expenditure of a government department and it could be months before we decide whether to issue a report."

Lessons

Imagine Belfast chairman Tom Collins acknowledged an investigation was necessary to find out what lessons could be learned.

"I have no concerns about how the money was spent and how the bid was put together and what the company delivered," he said.

"Nothing in this life is perfect and what we said at the time was that this was a learning process."

Twelve cities entered the race but were whittled down by an advisory panel chaired by Sir Jeremy Isaacs, former director general of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

The panel visited all the cities which put themselves forward and examined the bids in detail before producing the final shortlist of Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Newcastle/Gateshead, Oxford and eventual winners Liverpool.

Analysts have estimated that the cultural prize will mean the creation of 14,000 jobs and 2bn of investment on Merseyside.

The only other UK city to have been a City of Culture, as it was known then, was Glasgow in 1990 and it claims to have reaped huge benefits.




SEE ALSO:
Culture shock after bid rejection
30 Oct 02  |  Northern Ireland
Belfast 'favourite' for culture title
30 Jan 02  |  Northern Ireland
'Disappointment' over culture bid
30 Oct 02  |  Northern Ireland


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