READING will be shelling out up to £70,000 when the Olympic Torch relay arrives.
Reading Borough Council is forecasting that the final cost of the relay coming through town on Tuesday, and Wednesday, July 10-11 will be between £40,000 and £70,000 - an outlay defended by business leaders, torchbearers and the borough's ruling Labour group.
A free celebration planned for July 10 at the Madejski Stadium for 20,000 local people will account for much of the bill. The council rejected the idea of paying the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) to decorate the town with official flags.
Culture leader Cllr Marian Livingston said: "Our aim has always been to deliver the best possible event for this once-in-a-lifetime occasion and at the same time make sure we keep the cost to local council taxpayers to an absolute minimum.
"That is why we haven't taken up LOCOG's offer to put up their banners along the route, and why we have successfully recruited more than 200
volunteers - and counting - to help with stewarding in their own time."
Council spokesman Oscar Mortali said it will be a fantastic opportunity to raise Reading's profile and provide a significant economic boost for businesses. He said there are also opportunities for income for the council from corporate hospitality on July 10. Gary Cranford, from Reading Chamber of Commerce, agreed it is a good investment, and added: "This can only benefit the local economy, both from increased visibility, extra visitors and give a feel good factor in the run up to London 2012."
West Berkshire Council - which is also shunning LOCOG - is spending £2,000 on the Theale, Thatcham and Newbury legs of the relay. A combined bill of up to £60,000 is expected by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Wokingham and Bracknell Forest councils, which is paying LOCOG £11,000 to mark the route with official flags.
Torchbearer Richard Burbedge, 31, from Tilehurst, who will carry the flame through Reading on July 10 - just 10 days after representing Great Britain in the European Heart and Lung Transplant Games in Holland -said: "It is a lot of money but it's something that should be celebrated and it's not often you get the chance to show off the town."