Torbay Council Faces Scrutiny After High-Profile Festival Flop

 Torbay Council Faces Scrutiny After High-Profile Festival Flop

English Riviera Food and Drink Festival

The recent collapse of a highly anticipated food and music festival in Torbay has prompted calls for tighter procedures and greater diligence from the local council. The Riviera Food and Music Festival, originally scheduled for May on Torre Abbey Meadows, promised a star-studded lineup including renowned acts like UB40, The Vamps, and Razorlight, alongside appearances from popular TV chefs.

Unfortunately, the event was abruptly canceled just weeks before its scheduled date when the festival’s organizing company, Case Live, ceased operations and appointed liquidators. This left hundreds of local ticket holders out of pocket. It was later revealed that Case Live, founded only in August 2022, had no prior experience organizing events and no financial records. Furthermore, the 26-year-old CEO, Toby Darvill, had a history of involvement with dissolved small companies.

The Torbay Council’s decision to grant £20,000 to Case Live had provided a sense of credibility to other businesses and high-profile acts associated with the festival. In response, Torbay’s Conservatives demanded an inquiry into the mishandling of the event. Councillor David Thomas called for answers regarding the selection process that led to Case Live becoming the council’s partner and questioned why the cancellation was announced so close to the event, leaving many individuals in the bay region facing significant financial losses.

The Devon Audit Partnership conducted an investigation into the council’s handling of the situation, the findings of which have been published and are set to be discussed by the bay’s overview and scrutiny committee. The report highlights the need for the council to implement additional safeguards to prevent a similar incident in the future. It reveals that although the council went through two unsuccessful tender processes to find a suitable company for the festival, they were determined to proceed with the event. Eventually, Case Live was granted the contract through a “waiver” process, with reduced expectations compared to their initial proposal. The contract was valued at £120,000 for a three-year period, and Case Live identified Case Entertainment Group as its parent company.

The council has already incurred costs of £20,000 on the festival, which never came to fruition. Originally scheduled for the late May bank holiday, the event was called off on April 26. Tony Rose, the head of the Devon Audit Partnership, identified areas where the control framework could be strengthened. The waiver document, although following standard procedures, contained unsupported statements and potentially ambiguous information that could have influenced the final decision. Rose recommends strengthening the waiver process.

Furthermore, Rose discovered that while a financial check was conducted on Case Live, no assessment was performed on Case Entertainment as the parent company. He suggests enhancing the due diligence process to scrutinize company history more extensively, considering any associated risks posed to the contract. Rose emphasized the importance of continuously reviewing all gathered information during procurement to ensure it aligns with the statements and decisions made.

In response to the findings, the Torbay Council intends to restructure its procurement, contract management, and commissioning team while establishing comprehensive and robust processes. However, Rose acknowledged that certain areas remained unexamined due to limited available information. He suggested that the council consider involving the police for a broader investigation into the involved companies.

A local business owner who provided services to Case Live expressed disappointment, highlighting that the council’s endorsement and significant public funding lent credibility to the event. They emphasized the need for the council to address the background checks conducted on Case Live before allocating council tax funds to them.

Following the festival’s collapse, the council directed ticket holders to a Which? magazine article for guidance. Case Live released a statement expressing deep disappointment over the cancellation of the English Riviera Food and Drink Festival. They cited rising costs and financial strain as the reasons for making the difficult decision, apologizing for any inconvenience caused and expressing gratitude to all stakeholders, including artists, partners, suppliers, local businesses, and Torbay Council.

Jay Magson

Business | Property | Lifestyle - Jay@weareteignbridge.co.uk

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