Capital Hits Back at Criticism of Culture Bid

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Byline: Karen Price Arts and Media Correspondent

THE team behind Cardiff's unsuccessful European Capital of Culture bid yesterday criticised the chairman of the judges for suggesting that it did not significantly include the Valleys in its fight for the title.

Cardiff, which submitted an all-Wales bid, and four other cities lost out to Liverpool in the race for the prize, which was announced by the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, live on television yesterday morning.

The head of the panel of independent judges, Sir Jeremy Isaacs, said Cardiff's bid had been a strong contender and its strengths had far outweighed its weaknesses ``but in the end we weren't absolutely sure the Valleys were present in Cardiff as the bid in some ways suggested they were meant to be''.

A spokesman for Cardiff 2008 said the team was taken aback by his ``bizarre'' comments in a radio interview which suggested that the Valleys did not have much say in the bid.

``We are really surprised at Sir Jeremy Isaacs's comment,'' he said.

``We have always emphasised that the bid was on behalf of the whole of Wales.

``The Valleys and Cardiff are closely interrelated.

``Thousands of people from the Valleys come into the city every day to work, to shop and to share in concerts and celebrations and any event in Cardiff would inevitably include the people of the South Wales Valleys.''

Prime Minister Tony Blair has already promised extra funding for Cardiff and the other short-listed cities - Birmingham, NewcastleGateshead, Bristol and Oxford - to help build on their work. A total of pounds 2.8m was spent on the Cardiff 2008 bid by the National Assembly and Cardiff County Council.

Blaenau Gwent MP Llew Smith said more public money should now be invested in other parts of Wales.

``I think Cardiff can look after itself and that its future is very secure because the National Assembly seems to concentrate too much on supporting that city,'' said Mr Smith.

``They have spent so much money in supporting the bid as well as around pounds 100m on a glorified opera house (Wales Millennium Centre) in Cardiff Bay.

``Perhaps the extra money which I assume would have been allocated to Cardiff if the bid had been successful can now go into the most deprived Valleys communities. …