We'll look at City of Culture bid later in the year, says new council leader

Worcester News: BUSY: Worcester city centre BUSY: Worcester city centre

AN AMBITIOUS bid for Worcester to become the City of Culture has been placed under review by the new Conservative leadership - which says it won't be rushed into making a decision.

Councillor Simon Geraghty, the new city leader, says he expects to sit down and look at it carefully over the summer.

As your Worcester News revealed in April the old Labour administration decided to launch preparations for a 2021 City of Culture bid, before being ousted from office earlier this month.

The coveted award would catapult Worcester onto the international stage and pour millions into the economy, but would come with a hefty financial cost even if the bid made little progress.

Cllr Geraghty insists it is not on his list of immediate priorities compared to other issues like slashing car parking rates and improving services such as Worcester cemetery.

He told your Worcester News he will examine the work done on it so far, but not until later in the summer at the earliest.

"That is something that at some point, we will have to take a view on to see if it's realistic and feasible," he said.

"It's not something we've had a discussion about yet - our immediate focus right now is on other areas.

"We're looking at services where we feel standards have slipped, like the cleaner and greener department, we're looking to advance our key pledges from before we came into power (like cutting car parking charges) and we're focusing on making sure our vision for Worcester is reflected in next year's budget.

"So the bid is something we'll have to look at but it may not be until later in the year that we get to do that once we've dealt with the immediate stuff."

He said the stance is "what the public would expect" from the new-look cabinet in the short term.

It comes amid pressure from the Labour opposition to continue the project.

Councillor Adrian Gregson, Labour group leader, said: "All we hear about is things like reversing car parking charges, the council tax, but nothing about a 'big vision' for Worcester.

"We had an ambitious plan for the city and all of that is now under threat."

The City of Culture award is handed out by the Government once every four years.

Hull, which has secured the award for 2017 after spending years developing its bid, is estimated to benefit from at least £60 million of extra economic activity helping the jobs market, tourism, shops, businesses and its international reputation.

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