Trust funding ‘may not be good value for money’ for rate payers

CONCERNS have been raised that Larne Council’s financial backing of a local heritage trust may not represent “good value for money” for the borough.

For the past decade, the local authority has helped fund the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust (CCGHT) in its efforts to protect the natural, built and cultural heritage within the Causeway coastal area. Moyle, Ballymena, Coleraine and Limavady Councils have also provided financial support to the Trust.

In earlier years, Larne Council’s contribution was about £5,000 a year, but in the last three years that figure has risen to about £11,000. This is consistent with the level of funding provided by other councils - except Ballymena, which last year capped its funding at £3,000.

At the latest meeting of the development committee in Smiley Buildings, members were asked to invite representatives from CCGHT to make a presentation detailing its future funding requirements. The trust has indicted that it will again be seeking a contribution of £11,000 from the local authority for the year 2012/13.

However, Alderman Winston Fulton expressed concerns about the level of funding the council had given to the trust in recent years.

“Do we really get good value for money out of this? It doesn’t appear that we do, and it seems that other places such as Moyle are gaining more from it than us. I don’t know if we can afford another £11,000 next year,” he said.

Ald Fulton also wanted to know why Ballymena Council capped its latest contribution at £3,000.

Director of development Linda McCullough told him that “no specific reason had been given” for Ballymena’s decision. She added that Larne Council’s tourism manager, Ainsley McWilliams, had given “very positive feedback” regarding the scheme.

And Councillor Roy Craig, who sits on the board of the trust, also felt the council’s contribution represented good value for money and supported Mrs McCullough’s recommendation that CCGHT should be invited to make a presentation.

He added: “Alderman Fulton will be able to make a judgement for himself when the trust makes its presentation to the council. This should allay any fears he may have about the money not being spent wisely.