Cllr Steve Wallis, Eastbourne Borough Council’s spokesperson for tourism, said sorry to his fellow borough councillors and said he was regretful the £5 charge for Airbourne had not worked.
David Tutt had been asked to take responsibility for the decision, which led to a black hole in the council budget of £380,000. But Cllr Tutt was not there to hear the debate on the Conservative motion, having declared a prejudicial interest and left the council chamber. In his absence, Cllr Wallis said sorry but asked people to remember the economic climate surrounding the festival, saying a falling audience for airshows in general and high fuel prices had kept people away.
Cllr Troy Tester, deputy leader of the council, said Cllr Tutt had already apologised on behalf of the council.
But Cllr Colin Belsey, who proposed the motion, said an individual apology was needed, like those made by the chairmen of multinational banks for losing money.
The hundreds of thousands lost had been covered by the council but if not lost, he said, could have been spent on other benefits for the town.
Martin Reeves, a self-employed cab driver, spoke at the meeting. In previous years he had ferried a constant stream of visitors to the free airshow but last year, working over three days, he did just four trips.
Hindsight was a wonderful thing, claimed Liberal Democrat councillor John Harris. He and several other councillors partially blamed the lack of visitors on the decision of Eastbourne MP Nigel Waterson to stand on the seafront telling people not to go.
Cllr Tutt did not apologise again and Cllr Belsey, speaking after the meeting, said, “I was very disappointed that the leader of the council decided to withdraw for this motion. “I suppose sorry really does seem to be the hardest word.”