AS HUNDREDS of thousands have enjoyed the 15th and fabulous Bournemouth Air Festival, now would be a good time to bust the myth about its cost.

Vikki Slade and Millie Earle, the Poole-based and recently elected leader and deputy leader of BCP Council are claiming it costs local council payers £400,000.

What is not mentioned is that because of its location and timing, the event also generates indirect income to the council that wouldn’t normally be enjoyed on a September weekend after the summer season has ended, precisely why this weekend was chosen in 2008.

Seafront trading enjoys an extra £200,000 in income during the festival and car parks between £100-£130,000.

The Prom Cafe in Pier Approach had its best ever Saturday trading during last year’s BAF and town centre car parks that are half empty all summer are rammed during this weekend, plus the park and ride. At most it costs somewhere between £70 - £100,000, whilst delivering tens of millions to our local economy.

If BAF was a stand alone event and our only tourist activity it would be true to say there is a small cost to the council tax payer, but it’s not. Bournemouth Council spent many years developing tourism and its seafront to a point where it doesn’t costs the tax payer a penny and actually delivers a surplus to fund other services.

This year it was in excess of £6m. Every tourism activity, every event, every cultural activity and every seafront cost is paid for by seafront income.

That is not to say the council shouldn’t look to close the gap to generate even more to spend elsewhere, whilst developing and further innovating the festival, and this work started last year with some savings already identified and further proposals coming from the hospitality sector.

Cancelling the air festival to save what is essentially a non existent £400,000 to support an illusion of allocating it elsewhere, would damage our reputation as one of the big four resorts, put a huge hole in our economy and be the catalyst to dismantle our tourism industry, leading to job losses and denigration of our coast, as hundreds of millions of tourism income is lost.

I totally get that the leader might need to carry out a PR exercise to appear to ‘save £400,000 of council tax payers money’ but I hope she is strong enough not to be pressurised by the bean counters who cannot see the wider picture.

The place to look for big savings is to the big council tax spenders and tourism isn’t one of them!