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Gloucestershire Business News

Split in half: Report recommends changes after criticising Marketing Gloucester and City Council

An independent review in to Marketing Gloucester has called for the organisation to be split in two with Gloucester City Council assuming responsibility for the city's events programme.

Events such as The Tall Ships Festival and the city's fireworks display would fall under council control while Marketing Gloucester assumes a role as a "placemaking organisation."

A specially-convened meeting of the city council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be held tomorrow evening at North Warehouse (6.30pm) to debate the findings of the independent report.

The full report carried out by Grant Thornton was published on Tuesday afternoon, just over a day before the crucial meeting takes place.

A summary of its findings were published on Tuesday afternoon, just 48 hours before the meeting to debate the issue.

And those findings pointed to failings by both Marketing Gloucester and the city council.

It said that Marketing Gloucester "had put too much focus on events delivery and not enough on marketing the city as a whole to an external audience."

But it was also critical of the council, who call themselves the "sole stakeholder" in Marketing Gloucester but at the same time refer to it as "an arm's length company."

The report noted that the council's requirements of the organisation were "too broad and far-ranging and need to be focused."

The review came after Marketing Gloucester ran into financial trouble last year and came to the council for a loan.

And while the council obliged, a proviso that came with the cash was that the review be carried out and its recommendations be acted upon.

Councillor Steve Morgan, cabinet member for culture and leisure at the city council said: "We remain committed to Marketing Gloucester being as independent as possible.

"However it is clear that we need to maintain appropriate oversight of the operations.

"Clearly Marketing Gloucester has had success with many of its projects but it has not managed its cash flow well enough.

"We have been given no option but to provide them with a cash flow facility, so we have a duty to ensure that there is appropriate operational and financial management."

A statement revealing those changes sought to clarify the next steps, but left as many questions as answers.

There was no mention of the future of Marketing Gloucester's chief executive Jason Smith yet one of the recommendations is to employ a managing director for the organisation.

It also failed to shed any light on how the council will seek to run the established events programme devised and managed by Marketing Gloucester.

It did call for an "urgent and full review" into the UK Digital Retail Innovation Centre established by Marketing Gloucester with £400,000 of funding from GFirst LEP.

However, it then only referred to a "lack of alignment" for the project, without ever saying what it should be aligned to.

In total, there were six defined recommendations, the first of which was for the city to have an "effective, dynamic and collaborative placemaking organisation."

That role should be Marketing Gloucester's sole responsibility from now on and a new interim managing director would be employed to oversee the change.

Their responsibility will to completely overhaul the structure of the organisation from the makeup of the current board, right down to its skills and staffing needs.

No mention is made of Mr Smith or the role of chief executive of Marketing Gloucester, a post that he has held for the past six years.

The interim MD would be charged with setting out a new mission and vision for Marketing Gloucester and establishing a new business plan before employing a new full-time MD.

That managing director would sit on a new-look board that will have other executive members on it as well as the current volunteers from city businesses and institutions.

The report said there was "not enough accountability for decision making" at Marketing Gloucester and was critical of its "informality of financial controls and procedures."

It adds that the new board must have "the necessary skills and experience to hold the company to account and provide effective governance."

Added to that, two additional Gloucester City Council representatives would be added to the board, one of whom would be a cabinet member and the other a corporate director.

Punchline has approached the council and requested to see a full copy of the report in order to see what, or any criticism, is laid at the authority's door.

The council have confirmed that the full report will be published on their website shortly.

Other than the line that the council's requirements of its, in effect, subsidiary were "too broad" and need to be refocussed, there is no mention of the council's role.

They did pay tribute to the hard work done by Marketing Gloucester for the work they have done to promote and establish a number of events, including the famous Tall Ships Festival.

But other than to say thank you to Marketing Gloucester, there were no clues given as to how the events programme would work under council control.

Cllr Morgan added: "The review identified a number of positives within the organisation and we don't want to detract from the good work the team do.

"We will support Marketing Gloucester to get back to clearly focussing on the important work of promoting our great city."

The recommendations of the independent review will now be considered by the council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee before going before Cabinet on January 15.

Members of the public can attend tomorrow night's meeting.

Punchline said: "Although the report leaves more questions than it answers, at least there appears to be some movement on the future of Marketing Gloucester.

"Marketing Gloucester has been treading water and it needs some direction for the business community to maintain its faith in both the organisation and the council.

"We recognise the importance of Gloucester having an independent organisation promoting the city to the world.

"It is also vital that the good work of the last 10 years, in establishing events like the Tall Ships Festival is not undone."

"We will continue to hold both organisations to account to ensure that the great work to promote the city continues."

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