Local spending backlash prompts Stoke-on-Trent to pull back from RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Stoke-on-Trent City Council will not exhibit at RHS Chelsea Flower Show again without securing "significant" private sector sponsorship, it's leader has said.

The 2014 Positively Stoke garden being judged
The 2014 Positively Stoke garden being judged

Its Positively Stoke-on-Trent garden on the triangle at this year’s show packed a whole narrative of the city’s past and current character as well as its future aspirations, including its ambitions to become a centre for geothermal energy. Designed in-house and built by Bartholomew Landscaping, it won a silver gilt medal.

However the council leader has now said it cost too much at a time of "ever decreasing resources" for local authorities – and the city would need to secure significant sponsorship to return.

Council leader councillor Mohammed Pervez said: "We have to ensure that we are maximising external funding and working in partnership with the business sector.

"We will continue to explore new opportunities to market our city but we need the business sector to support us if we are going to go to Chelsea again."

The council exhibited at RHS Chelsea in 2013, spending around £80,000 and raising around £300,000 through sponsorship, including products and services directly donated. Its Stoke-on-Trent Garden Partnership won a silver flora medal.

But officers had spent 18 months planning the garden, drawing in support from across Stoke society, from businesses to schools.

When it tried to repeat the effort in a shorter timeframe for 2014 it raised more than £100,000 in goods and services but only £28,236 in cash – leaving it to spend £330,000 of council funds.

Campaigners against budget cuts were not impressed.

March on Stoke protester Alan Barrett told The Stoke Sentinel newspaper: "The investment has proved very poor in terms of a return.

"Over the last two years the council has spent almost £1 million on the Chelsea Flower Show, that’s money that could be better spent on important things like buying Fenton Town Hall or re-opening Stoke Library."

Both entries were part of a drive by the city to drive regeneration and encourage inward investment.

Pervez said it provided "an important opportunity to speak directly to the movers and shakers and to showcase the city’s enterprise economy, its ambitions and creativity. This is an investment for the future and will pay dividends in the long-run."

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