European Capital of Culture: Milton Keynes bid 'should not be thrown away' says council leader

Pete Marland doesn't want to see the bid 'thrown away'
Pete Marland doesn't want to see the bid 'thrown away'

Council leader Pete Marland says it will be a 'lost opportunity' to reshape relations if the EU sticks to its guns and bans British bids for the European Capital of Culture - and maintains that the city's bid should not be discarded.

Councillor Marland had been a key member of Milton Keynes' bid team to go for the Capital of Culture title in 2023, when a British city was due to be named alongside a Hungarian one.

But the European Commission this morning informed the government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport that British cities would no longer be considered in 2023 following the decision to leave the European Union.
But Cllr Marland still has some hope that the decision may not be final, and says money spent on the bid so far will not have been wasted.

He told the Citizen: "It's not a final decision hopefully, and I know the government will try and persuade them that it shouldn't be a final decision.

"We're at a point now where the bid is ready to go, and we were going to present next week to try and be shortlisted. We can still present if asked, but we're now in a position where we can't commit any more funds until there's a bit more certainty.

"But what we've done so far, we shouldn't throw away. We've spent about £100,000 on the bid as it stands. It's when you are shortlisted that you have to start planning on putting x amounts of money aside and start planning for events.

"If the decision stays as it is I think it would be a lost opportunity to be able to shape cultural links, heritage links and people links after we have left the European Union."

The 2023 bid for MK was only officially submitted at the end of October, so for the bid to have had such a potentially short lifespan is no doubt a source of huge frustration for those involved in the process.

And last year, Cllr Marland said he believed that the Brexit vote wouldn't scupper any bids.
Meanwhile, Milton Keynes Council has said it will not be voluntarily withdrawing from the process, and it hopes 'a compromise' can be found.

And Councillor Marland insists that the bid will still have been worth it.

He added: "It's obviously disappointing, but we have done a lot of work that has done a lot of good, and has already probably made back a lot of that money in the profile we've raised by going for it.

"We are leaving the Union, not Europe, and we want to stay part of its culture.

"We do need a new relationship with the European Union, and one of the reasons we wanted to bid was to help reshape that relationship. The Capital of Culture would have been a really good way of going forward in that relationship."

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: “We disagree with the European Commission's stance and are deeply disappointed that it has waited until after UK cities have submitted their final bids before communicating this new position to us.

"The Prime Minister has been clear that while we are leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe and this has been welcomed by EU leaders. We want to continue working with our friends in Europe to promote the long-term economic development of our continent, which may include participating in cultural programmes.

"We remain committed to working with the five UK cities that have submitted bids to help them realise their cultural ambitions and we are in urgent discussions with the Commission on the matter.”