EY’s UCI Impact Study
Independent businesses in Harrogate town centre have read comments on and reports of the UCI Impact Study with dismay; anyone would think that the event had been a glorious success for everyone, when this was far from so. Why have the scope of the review and its methodology not been questioned? Massive assumptions and estimates were made to arrive at the alleged ‘Economic Boost’ to the local economy, and rather than being questioned these have then been touted as fact. In reality the study is based on limited and selective information and vital feedback was specifically excluded from the review. A reading of the small print (and it is small!) makes it clear that the report only deals with the pros while ignoring the cons.
The EY study “was informed by survey interviews with over 450 spectators over the course of the event” and “online questionnaires were shared with accredited media and participating teams, and financial and other information in relation to the event was also shared by event organisers Yorkshire 2019 and the UCI” (whatever this may mean!). “Survey questionnaires … focussed on … the origin of spectators, the purpose of their visit, the activities undertaken during their visit , and their level of spending on different goods and services”. Apparently, all the conclusions were drawn from this very limited input.
The report is specifically designed to show only additional benefits over normal circumstances. “Reduced economic activity … (is) … not included within this study” What value does the report have without this? The methodology says – “EY has spoken with local business representatives, some of whom had mixed views on the event”. No they didn’t. The majority of businesses didn’t have “mixed views”, they were absolutely clear that it was a financial disaster. None of the massive local reduction in turnover is factored into the report.
To add insult to injury, the methodology says that “environmental costs and benefits was (sic) outside the scope of the study”. Therefore, negative economic factors resulting from the ongoing condition of the Stray, which will deter visitors and devalue the town, aren’t taken into account. Also, “Disruption, such as to the transport network, which may in turn result in reduced economic activity … (is) … not considered as part of this study”. In the light of the level of this in the lead-up to, during and after the event, this is a significant omission.
Uncritically touting the results of the survey as being fact and good news without explaining or questioning its limitations and lack of rigour is at best, unhelpful – at worst, dishonest. The independent businesses of Harrogate who suffered real financial damage from the UCI deserve better from those who brought the event to town and who have spent £19,000 of ratepayers money on this seriously flawed study of an event which they continue to spin as an unalloyed success when they know it wasn’t.
IH does not have the funds to commission a survey of its own to counter that of EY, but by just putting out a request to IH members this week we have been told by only 22 town centre businesses so far that they lost £968,000 during the week prior and the main week of the UCI event. This figure does not include far bigger losses by other businesses, including big names and national firms, which we have been told about but which they do not wish to publicise. Whatever the EY Study may say, it is a fact that the UCI was a disaster for a large number of town centre businesses, big and small, who are the life-blood of our local economy, supporting one another and hundreds of local staff. Why can’t other local business groups and our politicians publicly acknowledge this?