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Wednesday, 15 January 2014


Very quietly, so the Dame would not find out, and poor, have been forced into signing yet another three year sponsorship deal with hard nosed South African bankers, Investec.
Fortunately, not much misses the Dame: so here is the bad news.
Local tax payers  are now automatically locked in to fund the balance of the losses for the next three years - a subsidy now running at £1 million a year after all the costs of cash, storing and dismantling the tent, office and admin support etc are added up.

This diversification into the leisure industry is not what a fiscally responsible council should be about.

The entire Opera Holland Park operation under director Michael Volpe, has grown, without financial discipline, over the last ten years.
So large now is OHP that it desperately requires professional systems, organisation, and succession planning. 
It is the height of irresponsibility to continue running something on this scale on a "cottage industry" basis. 
The whole set up is a lifestyle indulgence for Volpe, funded by hard pressed tax payers. 
And of course  the overwhelming question is whether Local Government should be funding an opera company at all. 
The Dame says "no" and this opinion is shared by every other Local Authority in the land. 
The true scandal is that £1 million a year of tax payers' money is being gobbled up, while food banks are being operated in the Borough. 

The £1 million a year is being diverted from helping low waged residents and distressed elderly folk. 
The Leader of the Council needs to recognise that it will become more and more difficult to close the operation as the years go by. 
The Cockell strategy of keeping things going for long enough so that he could pass the poisoned chalice to his successor seems to be succeeding.


  1. Kensington Resident15 January 2014 at 11:25

    Congratulations to the Dame for digging this out. The old girl seems to have spies everywhere!

  2. Retired Chief Executive15 January 2014 at 11:48

    Makes my blood boil. Another example of businessmen running rings around local Government types. Analysis of the "deal" demonstrates the rip off that failed Travel Agent Volpe has fallen for. He trailed a £525k sponsorship deal for approval by the Council. Everyone is running so scared that only the Leader could have approved it - the rabbits all looked to him for a lead. Lets analyse the fundamentals. Investec is a hard nosed Wealth Management company with many private clients in the area. Profits are huge but so is churn in the industry as clients move between suppliers to try and better their returns. So relationship management is one of the best ways to reduce churn and Investec believes that a "night at the opera" is a good way to reduce churn and get more business from their clients. Investec has contracted for £175k per year cash sponsorship. Of course they offset this against tax so the net cost is, say, £145k. They also demand 300 "free" tickets (valued at £55 per ticket) and 280 "free" meals (valued at £14 per meal) in the Opera Tent. So that's £90k claw back of the sponsorship grant. If Investec did their soft selling at Covent Garden the 300 "free" tickets would cost them an extra £45k and the 280 "free" meals would cost an extra £22k. So they obtain a benefit of £170k that costs them £145k. A bit complicated I know, but people striking deals need to understand these things. If Volpe had an ounce of commercial sense he would have pushed hard for a £400k per year sponsorship (stressing the "wow" factor of Opera in the Park and responsible giving to civic projects, and the average £15k per year Present Value saving for every client that is prevented from churning ) and been prepared to walk away with a £350k per year deal. But of course he does not have a clue

  3. This is what happens when the opportunity is made available for side deals with a highly subsidised undertaking. Hard pressed tax payers funding Investec marketing. Talk about harlots through the ages......

  4. There's no better demonstration of just how of touch many of our Councillors are with their constituents than their failure to do something about this.

    How long has this debacle been allowed to go on?

    Surely even the most clueless must realise just what a shocking waste of tax payer's money this is and that it is completely unacceptable to spend money on a second rate opera in a park whilst the Council also embarks on drastic cuts essential services?

    1. Wonder if Councillor Blakeman or any of her fellow Labour poodles will be paying for their HPO tickets this year?

    2. I think the whole set up of Holland Opera is quite hideous. An ugly marquee spoiling the stunning setting of Holland House. The gardens around the ruin itself has to endure eight months of being trampled on and so what could be a stunning garden; maybe along the lines of the italian gardens of Chiswick House are instead a complete mess. The whole thing stinks of elitism.

  5. Oak is correct.

    And many of us remember the debate on the London Living Wage, when Loony Lightfoot raged about the potential loss to the Council of £1m if we insisted our contractors all pay a decent wage.

    Ladies and gentlemen - opera or a decent wage? I know where my vote lies.

    1. That Lightfoot considers paying a living wage a "waste" whilst paying for an Opera company is apparently okay says a lot about Lightfoot. It starts with "clue" and end with "less".

      Increasing the disposable income of those in low paid work has clear economic benefits - they tend to spend that money in the wider economy thus keeping shops and businesses afloat.

      The main benefit of Opera Holland Park appears to be to the egos of some very small men/women who have become infatuated with the idea of supporting opera. They should do us all a favour, resign and follow that particular calling wherever it takes them and without wasting tax payer's money.

  6. Sadly, under the current electorial system; those tradiitonal Conservative voters in RBK&C who decide not to vote for the party and either vote for UKIP or spoil their vote have simply wasted their vote. It is in the marginal constituents which really count, which account for far less than 10% of the voters. This unfair and wholly undemocratic system allows the likes of this council to support dubious and elite events such as Holland Park and Exhibiton road without any concern whatsoever to the council taxpayer. As a tradiitonal Tory dare I say that proportional representation or a hybrid of one is really the only fair way forward for both local and national politics.


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