Belfast Telegraph

Cross-party Council delegation meets with Audit Office over £400k 'bonfire diversion' scheme

By Andrew Madden, Local democracy reporter

A Cross-party City Hall delegation has met with the Audit Office over a controversial £400k handout of public money for a "bonfire diversion" scheme.

Alliance and SDLP councillors met with the Office on Thursday afternoon over how the funding decision was made at Belfast City Council in May.

At May's meeting of BCC's SPR committee, Sinn Fein and DUP representatives decided to split £400,000 of raterpayers' money to a range of community groups for "diversionary activities associated with July and August bonfires".

No "call-in" mechanism was employed in the decision making process, meaning those in disagreement could not ask for it to be reviewed.

The two main beneficiaries of the cash hand-out are west Belfast's Feile festival and the Woodvale festival, who have already been given £200k of the £400k pot for musicians, running costs and other associated costs of what the council term's "Area-based Festivals".

SDLP councillor Donal Lyons said the funding applications received by the council had "no detail whatsoever" and no "input or output" in terms of where exactly the money was going, or any visible due diligence.

DUP City Hall group leader Lee Reynolds, however, said both the Alliance Party and the SDLP are simply "unhappy about the decision".

Earlier this week, it emerged that the Woodvale festival will be for "Shankhill locals only".

Event organiser Alfie McCrory told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme that the event was going to be "a local festival for local people".

"I need to stress that people will need to show ID that they live in the greater Shankill area," he added.

On Thursday, Lee Reynolds said such festivals can only hold so many people, therefore it is not a surprise organisers are "prioritising the area [the festival] impacts on".

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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