Anger over £19,000 Olympic Torch job in Cornwall

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The Independent Online

A quango has been criticised for advertising for a permanent member of staff to coordinate the passage of the Olympic torch through Cornwall next year - for a single day.

The Cornwall Development Company, an offshoot of Cornwall Council, has advertised for a "project officer Olympic torch relay" with salary of £19,689, to publicise the event and create "community engagement".

The torch will begin its winding journey to the capital from Land's End on May 19 next year, kicking off a 70-day tour of the UK before it arrives at London's Olympic stadium ahead of the opening ceremony on July 27.

The distance from Land's End to the Tamar Bridge, which connects Saltash in Cornwall with Plymouth in Devon, is 82 miles.

The person who gets the job is due to start in October this year, with a fixed-term contract until May 31 next year.

Robert Oxley, campaign manager of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Local taxpayers will be staggered that Cornwall Council plans to spend so much of their money needlessly planning for one part of one day of the Olympics.

"Existing members of staff at the council should have been able to deliver an excellent day for the torch's visit, it's not much extra work. Times are tough for many families and they expect their council to try to make savings, not needlessly recruit extra employees."

The advert, on the organisation's website, says the Truro-based role will "help to raise awareness of the event throughout Cornwall, encouraging substantial community engagement, while also stimulating excitement for the London 2012 Olympic Games and reinforcing the profile of Cornwall both nationally and internationally".

The CDC defended the decision to create the role. Malcolm Bell, head of Visit Cornwall, the tourism arm of the organisation, said it was a "small amount of money" when compared to how much the county could make by running a well-organised publicity campaign.

He estimated it could make up to £7 million on the back of the torch's journey.

The job would also entail increasing community involvement in the towns and villages that the torch will go through, to bring out crowds on the day and create a "legacy" after it has passed, he said.

"This is using a little bit of money to make a lot out of a gift that has been handed to us. We would be foolish not to make the most of it," he said.

"We won't just have the eyes of the national press or the European press on us, we will have the eyes of the world's press on us.

"The middle of May is a good time for people to come to Cornwall but it is by no means the busiest time. This is a time to fill empty beds in hotels and chairs in restaurants."

Applications for the post must arrive by noon on Thursday, with interviews to be held on the week beginning September 5.

PA

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