| 7.8°C Belfast

Council challenged over cash for postponed events

Close

Stendhal Festival

Stendhal Festival

Ciara McMullan

James Hillier (Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki) and Michael Rutter (Bathams Racing BMW) during a race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush.  Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

James Hillier (Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki) and Michael Rutter (Bathams Racing BMW) during a race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

PMAKER

Sinn Fein’s Cara McShane

Sinn Fein’s Cara McShane

/

Stendhal Festival

Sinn Fein is to challenge a decision by Causeway Coast and Glens councillors to hand over almost £400,000 to events that have been cancelled or may not happen due to the pandemic.

It was decided to almost double the events funding for 2021, despite many not taking place.

The council's Leisure and Development Committee is to allocate a total of £396,538.50 from the Tourism Events Recovery Fund to help protect and sustain nine events until 2022.

However, Sinn Fein councillor Cara McShane described it as an "abuse of ratepayers' money".

Some £319,675 has been allocated to events that have indicated they still plan to go ahead later in the year if Covid restrictions allow.

Close

Sinn Fein’s Cara McShane

Sinn Fein’s Cara McShane

Sinn Fein’s Cara McShane

Limavady's Stendhal Festival will receive £99,000, the Supercup NI youth football competition £100,000, Ballylough Living History Trust £70,125 and the Armoy Road Races £50,550. A sum of £59,887.50 has been awarded to the Coleraine and District Motor Club, which organises the North West 200 and was officially cancelled in January.

The remaining £16,976 will be shared between the Heart of the Glens Festival, Co Londonderry Agricultural Show, Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association and North Antrim Agricultural Show.

Ms McShane claimed the fund "did not have the usual application process, therefore hand-picking certain events and not identifying any criteria".

She added: "The proposals pushed through by the DUP, UUP, Alliance and SDLP which effectively closed down the Tourism Events Recovery Fund to the wider community, is a blatant abuse of ratepayers' money.

"Many people, businesses, community groups and organisations are struggling financially too as we pass the first anniversary of a global health pandemic, yet some councillors think it is a good idea to give out blank cheques to events that are not even happening this year, without a proper process.

"Neither council officials nor other councillors could explain how the funds were spent last year when events were cancelled.

"It is obvious that some events need funding to sustain themselves and to ensure events can come back bigger and better, but the council has not carried out any strategic long-term planning."

She added: "Sinn Fein will be challenging this decision again when it comes to full council next month for ratification."

At the meeting, a council officer said that events that are not taking place this year were getting money for two purposes - to protect and sustain the event, and to invest in their event for the following year to ensure it doesn't die off. An officer confirmed money would be recuperated if events still planning to go ahead were cancelled, although they would still be eligible for some funding to sustain them.

DUP Councillor Aaron Callan emphasised the importance of ensuring the tourism events did not die out. "We as a council want to generate night stays, visitors and to bring people to the area. We can't do that without these events," he said. "We want to see these events survive, we want to see them bring back visitors to the area that we need. Without these successful events which are largely run by communities and generate a huge economic spend in our areas, we will take a bigger hit economically if they are not here next year."

Belfast Telegraph


Top Videos



Privacy