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GSD slams Govt’s ‘reckless’ pre-Brexit festival spending spree

The Gibraltar Government will spend more than £5million in a “reckless pre-Brexit spending spree” on festivals, the GSD said today as it told taxpayers the Government had “lost its way” in handling their money.

GSD Leader Keith Azopardi questioned the value for money of these events and called on the Government to set out how much tax-payers money is being used to fund them.

This is particularly so when Brexit is a matter of weeks away, he said.

“We should be building up our resources and a war chest in case we need it after 31 October,” Mr Azopardi said.

In a statement, the GSD said that the Government is to beat all spending on previous events by having “massively” high-cost acts at the Gibraltar Calling music festival.

This will be followed by Andrea Bocelli on September 9 and supporting the performance of David Guetta and Becky G on National Day.

The GSD added that there are then a range of expensive support services and expenses for all these acts.

“Information received by the GSD is that some of these acts will charge a fee of between £500,000 to £1 million to perform in Gibraltar,” the statement read.

The presence of David Guetta is “particularly spectacular” when a top DJ could be contracted for a small proportion of the cost that will be paid for getting him to come to Gibraltar, the party asserted.

“David Guetta is one of the highest earning DJs on the planet, taking home millions of pounds in earnings every year.”

“His announcement as headline artist for the National Day Monkey Rocks Festivals represents a massive step up from artists that have performed at previous editions of the festival and begs the question – is the tax payer footing the bill?”

The GSD has therefore called on the Government to set out in precise detail how much tax-payers money is being used in support of the Gibraltar Calling event and the Monkey Rocks Festival.

It highlighted how the last edition of the Monkey Rocks festival saw a wave of public concern in respect of drugs issues, excessive alcohol consumption and violence.

There were a number of drugs related arrests at the entrance of last year’s event, the GSD said.

“The Government itself recognised the concern and has wanted to rebrand it as a “family-friendly” event.”

It has stated it will provide funding for additional security, but the GSD said it should confirm how much money it is providing the organisers of Monkey Rocks.

“The Chief Minister had already said this year’s Gibraltar Calling music festival would likely cost around £3.5 million and that does not include the Bocelli concert or any direct or indirect funding provided to Monkey Rocks.”

It is obvious that the costs will far exceed the costs spent on any other year, the party added.

Mr Azopardi said: “When we are a few weeks away from a possible no deal Brexit it is quite irresponsible for the Government to be committing around £5million in four days of festivals.”

“This is a Government that has completely lost its way on handling your money or in priorities of how to use it. There will be big financial losses at all these events which in the run up to Brexit makes no sense at all.”

Additionally, the GSD said that after announcing with “great fanfare” that MTV would be behind the music festival that brand has almost disappeared from the marketing of this year’s event.

“The dropping of the MTV name follows the 2018 edition which was widely considered to have had the lowest attendance in the festival’s history, and television ratings showing negligible or non-existent viewing figures.”

“The fall in sales, the poor viewing figures, and ultimately the dropping of MTV as a presenting brand entirely, shows that the entire episode has been an expensive failure.”

The GSD said it is in favour of the annual music festival but insisted that it can be delivered with much more value for money and more cheaply.

It identified as a key issue how it is organised and who runs it and said it would put the festival out to tender should it be elected to Government.

“We would also not have a VVIP enclosure where the Chief Minister, Ministers and their party friends and families have regularly lorded it at public expense in previous years,” the GSD said.

Mr Azopardi added: “I have gone to every music festival since they started and as usual I will pay for my own tickets. In Government we would be responsible when organising these festivals so as to obtain best value for money.”

“Particularly at a special pre-Brexit time we see no sense in having this massive excess of spending when we are entering a phase of unprecedented consequences.”

“This is more about the Government spending as if there was no tomorrow in the run up to the next election. The sooner Gibraltar rejects that type of approach to your money the better.”