Festival of Brexit spent £120m in taxpayers’ cash

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The Festival of Brexit “frittered away” taxpayers’ cash as only a small fraction of those projected to attend turned up. The event is now subject to a probe after it managed to attract just 0.36 percent of its initial “stretch target”.

Then-Prime Minister Theresa May announced “Unboxed: Creativity in the UK”, better known as the “Festival of Brexit”, in 2018 following the EU referendum.

Intended as a national celebration, the Government planned for millions of Britons to attend events under its banner.

Sixty-six million were supposed to be entertained through the whole of this year.

But reports show that by the end go August, just 238,000 had attended events.

The National Audit Office (NAO) will now examine the value for money of the “festival” following heavy criticism of the package in the Houses of Parliament.

MP Julian Knight, Chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, insisted that £120million had been “frittered away” for so little in return.

He said: “That such an exorbitant amount of public cash has been spent on a so-called celebration of creativity that has barely failed to register in the public consciousness raises serious red flags about how the project has been managed from conception through to delivery.

“The NAO’s investigation will bring welcome and thorough scrutiny and help get to the bottom of how so much taxpayer money could be frittered away for so little return.”

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Mr Knight added that the festival’s management “has been an unadulterated shambles”.

He told the committee: “The paltry numbers attracted to the festival – despite such a hefty investment – highlight just what an excessive waste of money the whole project has been.”

Unboxed Chief Creative Officer Martin Green last month told the BBC the festival was “absolutely value for money”.

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The NAO was commissioned to investigate the festival by Mr Knight of the DCMS committee.

NAO Comptroller and Auditor General Gareth Davies this week confirmed a “focused” report would be released in the near future.

He said: “I propose in in the coming months to publish a short, focused report on Unboxed which could act as the basis for future questioning during a committee session with DCMS.”

Unboxed works have been shown in more than 100 towns and cities, according to its chiefs, who add that they have “engaged millions across live and digital and employed thousands of creatives around the UK”.

Features of the festival include the Sea Monster installation in Weston-super-Mare.

This is intended to promote a conversation about climate change.

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