Cambridge Picked ‘A Wrong ’Un’

The local city council feared the now bankrupt SecureTicket UK was a bad choice for ticket-seller of the 2008 Cambridge Folk Festival even before it went on sale, according to the local newspaper.

Using e-mail correspondence and council memos obtained under the Freedom Of Information Act, the Cambridge News has revealed that – three days before the onsale – the local authority realised something might be fishy but it was too late to do anything about it.

SecureTicket sold its allocation but Cambridge says it still hasn’t seen any of the money.

The paper says a council officer advising on the contract had warned, “Every bone in my body tells me this company is a wrong ’un – but I can’t put my finger on it.”

The unnamed officer reportedly told a colleague: “Can we move to another company in a day? Probably not. We are stuck with this lot so let’s keep our fingers crossed.”

Before going ahead with the company, officers had already decided SecureTicket UK was hiding “behind smoke and mirrors (and very pretty websites)” and that its network of linked companies was “a mystery.”

The council e-mails show See Tickets, which is selling tickets for this year’s Cambridge Folk (July 30 to Aug. 2), was one of the companies that had been considered but had lost out to SecureTicket UK in 2008.

“The more we see of this issue, the more we are convinced an independent review is the only way to flush out what happened to this £645,000 belonging to Cambridge residents, and to stop any repeat,” Labour opposition leader Lewis Herbert told the Cambridge paper.

When Secure Ticket UK tanked, Nick Simmonds of Tenon Recovery – which is winding up the company’s affairs – was told the Cambridge money had been spent because it was mistaken for a similar amount Secure had been expecting from new investors.

“The financial services company that collected the Cambridge money was due to pay it direct to the festival,” Simmons said, explaining how Secure Ticket UK claimed to have made such a mistake. The investment money never materialised.

As the pressure in the council chamber mounts, city leader Ian Nimmo-Smith – already chasing the estimated £7.5 million the authority lost in the Icelandic bank crash – has vowed “all options are being looked at” regarding the recovery of the folk festival money.

Simmonds says combing through Secure Ticket’s books is turning out to be a time-consuming task as there are so many transactions each involving tens of thousands of pounds.

For a thorough investigation into where all the money went, either Cambridge or another creditor would need to help fund it. At the moment there’s not enough in the pot to cover Tenon’s fees for winding up the company.

This year’s Cambridge Folk lineup includes Lucinda Williams, The Zutons, The Waterson Family, Paul Brady, Eddi Reader, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Los Lobos and The Saw Doctors.