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Coventry City Council says it wants to ensure future events do not suffer similar issues following the collapse of the trust that ran Coventry City of Culture 2021.

Caribbean reggae fever part of Coventry City of Culture 2021
Coventry City of Culture Trust collapsed in February 2023 with debts of more than £4m

Dylan Parrin

Government should conduct a national review into how the City of Culture programme is delivered in order to understand the mistakes that resulted in the collapse of Coventry City of Culture Trust and ensure they do not happen again, members of Coventry Council have said.

Putting forward a motion for a government review, Conservative Councillor Peter Male said that, while the Covid pandemic impacted the ability of the trust to deliver a full programme of events as originally envisaged, it must be accepted that "the trust suffered from operational problems from the outset that significantly impacted upon outcomes". 

"Bankruptcy, administration, trust board members who have run for the hills, and our legacy programme in tatters. For many, the sooner this is all swept under the carpet, the better," he said.


"But we cannot allow that to happen until we at least recognise the mistakes made and seek to ensure future events do not suffer a similar fate."

The trust which ran Coventry City of Culture 2021 had total income of around £45m but collapsed in February 2023 with debts of more than £4m.

Male cited an evaluation report that highlighted communication issues, a lack of transparency on programme decisions, and a "lack of clarity about agreed budgets and costs".

He said the standalone trust model, sitting outside of the local political process, was not subject to rigorous scrutiny by locally elected members. 

"A failure to manage the budget, ending in bankruptcy, administration, embarrassment and a potential risk to the reputation of our city. Not what we all envisaged on that joyous evening [when Coventry won the bid] back in 2017," he said.

"Those at the top of the trust walked away financially well rewarded and with honours to boot. Whilst many local creative groups have been left out of pocket with the notion of a legacy, a fading dream.  

"And let's not forget the money owed to Coventry City Council and the million pound loan. Council tax money wasted in a vain attempt to prop up the failing trust."

Local authority delivery

Gary Ridley, Leader of the Conservative group on Coventry City Council and a member of the Local Government Association's policy board on culture, tourism and sport, said he felt the programme could have been better delivered by the local authority.

"I understand why we went down the route [of a trust delivery model]. We were advised that had we not done so, we wouldn't have been successful in the bid. Which is why I think fundamentally, there needs to be a review of that model at a national level."

Labour Council Leader George Duggins said he backed the motion for a review of governance arrangements and moved an amendment for it to include a call for measures to be put in place to ensure the legacy of the programme for winning cities.

"I do believe that the idea of government review of the governance for the City of Culture arrangements is absolutely right," he said.

"But I do think it is also important that resources for legacies should be guaranteed as part and parcel of the City of Culture package.  

"Local benefits cost ratio would have been more impressive if it hadn't taken place during Covid. But I can also agree with the conclusion that a temporary organisation like the trust can't be expected to deliver long term sustainable outcomes to the city. 

"The government should ensure through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that funding for a legacy is factored into the overall financial envelope."