Mid and East Antrim Borough Council funding cut puts dampener on bonfire celebrations

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MEA Borough Council has cut the funding available under its Cultural Celebrations Grant, leading some groups to abandon annual events.

The funding, which is available through the Traditional Festivals Fund, previously had no upper limit in Larne.

In 2014/15, Larne Borough Council gave out a total of £8,317.28 to five groups.

However, since the three local councils amalgamated, the maximum amount available through the approved Council Scheme has been reduced to £1,000 per group.

A council spokesperson revealed that no funding has been processed for 2015/16 under the Traditional Festivals Fund.

One group which was affected by the funding reduction was Larne Bonfire Forum, which was forced to abandon its Twelfth of July festival after the council slashed the grant funding available by 75 per cent.

The organisation had held the three-day event at Boyne Square for the previous 12 years, and last year received around £4000 from Larne Borough Council.

However, this year organisers were informed that the money available under the Cultural Celebrations Grant would be cut to a maximum of £1000 five weeks before the event, leading them to abandon plans for the festival.

The Bonfire Forum decided not to apply for the reduced amount.

Coast Road DUP Councillor Gordon Lyons commented: “It would have been anticipated that more people would have applied than did so, so we need to look at the process,” he revealed.

“The community festival is exactly the type of thing we want to see more of.

“The bonfires are an important part of our heritage and a cultural expression of the past and the festival makes it more family-friendly and more appealing to people.

“We need to look at community festival grants and how we can structure them better and how the money can be used for the maximum benefit to the community.

“Within this transition period changes will be in place but we have always said as a council that we want to be responsive and if things aren’t done right we will look at them them.

“Funding is still being made available, it’s still there, but the application process is slightly different.”

A spokesperson from MEA Borough Council stated: “Previously it would appear that the Larne scheme had no upper limit.

“Ballymena previously had a maximum of £1,500. The maximum amount this year for all was £1,000.

“Therefore not a cut as such, but a standardisation. Factory Community Forum Larne got around £4,000 last year. They did not apply this year.”