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Portrush airshow cancellation a £2.5m hit to local economy, says Alliance councillor

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Some of the aircraft on show at Air Waves Portrush 2019.

Some of the aircraft on show at Air Waves Portrush 2019.

Some of the aircraft on show at Air Waves Portrush 2019.

A Northern Ireland council’s decision to cut funding for the popular Portrush airshow is to cost the North Coast economy £2.5m, a councillor has said.

One councillor said he was losing sleep over decisions that needed to be made to cut services for ratepayers.

This year’s Portrush Air Waves event was called off after having its funding withdrawn as Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council looks to slash its £68.7m debt.

Alliance Councillor Chris McCaw said council estimates suggest that the event brings in around £2.5m in revenue to the Portrush area every year, but that councillors had been left with no choice but to make the difficult decision.

Faced with staggering debt, the council has been forced to find massive savings.

Councillors are set to meet on Thursday evening and could strike the highest rate rise in Northern Ireland.

Jobs at the authority are also at risk and there are likely to be further cuts to services.

The Air Waves event is one of the tourism highlights of the year on the North Coast, attracting people from across the country to watch the breathtaking aerial displays. Around 100,000 people regularly attend.

Calling off the two-day event will save the council £240,000 in funding.

Other measures taken to address the financial crisis include the closure of popular tourist destination Waterworld, with a predicted annual saving of £80,000, car parking charges are also set to be introduced at various locations across the borough.

The measures were approved by councillors at a long-running meeting on Wednesday night.

The council is also considering moving from fortnightly to monthly black bin collections, worth an estimated £400,000 saving annually.

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Chris McCaw of Alliance

Chris McCaw of Alliance

Chris McCaw of Alliance

Councillor McCaw said he was losing sleep over the stark decisions facing councillors.

“When I was elected last year I never thought I would find myself in this position,” he said.

“We were told this was all we could do, the alternative was the Department of Communities coming in and raising the rate even higher.”

The Alliance councillor expressed hope the air show could return in the future.

“I’d love to see that, this is only happening due to the financial situation we’ve found ourselves in. The event was worth £2.5m to the Portrush area,” Councillor McCaw said.

“It’s just the financial situation we are in, it’s difficult and I’m very annoyed we are having to take services away from the public, from the people I represent, but we have to be responsible to the ratepayer. We have no other choice.”

Councillor McCaw said that experts from the NI Audit office had confirmed the scale of the council’s financial crisis.

“The full impact remains to be seen, the independent experts say the figures are exact, it’s unfortunate but neccesary.”

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The P-47-D Thunderbolt at Air Waves Portrush

The P-47-D Thunderbolt at Air Waves Portrush

The P-47-D Thunderbolt at Air Waves Portrush

While the Air Waves event, which normally takes place in the area in early September, will not go ahead in 2020 no decision has been taken over funding for future years.

The line up at the event consisted of aviation performances including fighter jets and planes from across the world, with the RAF Red Arrows a regular attraction. The event also featured firework displays and a concert in Portstewart.

Belfast Telegraph