At the January Council Meeting a misjudged attempt to bounce Ards and North Down Borough Council into funding the Donaghadee Big Weekend to the tune of £30,000 fell as the proposer and seconder failed to secure even the support of their own party colleagues.
If Councillors had only worked together to present a more creative approach to the issue instead of trying to get one over on each other, we might well have saved the day and created a successful way to add the Big Weekend to the annual event schedule for our town.
I proposed that the item be referred to the Regeneration & Economic Development Committee rather than ask Councillors to agree to the £30,000 spend without due consideration. I also proposed that Officers provide a costed line-by-line budget for the event and investigate securing corporate sponsorship to underwrite the cost.
While The Big Weekend was delivered by Council officers over the past two years, it was funded by DfC as part of the post-Public Realm dividend. It was never supposed to be added to the Council’s event schedule – and certainly not at the unbudgeted for amount of £30,000! I’m not even sure where that figure came from. After all, the Donaghadee Festival runs on a grant of less than £15,000 – and that lasts for two weeks!
Events similar to the Big Weekend were funded by DfC for each of the five towns that had undergone the Public Realm work. So when the proposal was made to allocate £30,000 to repeating the event in Donaghadee this year, it was destined to fail.
Not only would it have been financially irresponsible to support this preposterous request, but also – if agreed – similar events would have to be provided for in each of the towns at rate-payers expense.
The Council has already budgeted for an ambitious events schedule for 2018. So what I suggested was that Councillors consider The Big Weekend as a test case to see if it was possible to provide an additional event at little or no cost to ratepayers.
According to Council records, The Big Weekend has attracted over 15,000 visitors in the past two years and that makes it an attractive proposition for potential sponsors. That’s why I believe it might be possible to develop an event marketed primarily using the Council’s already successful social media platforms and supported with corporate sponsorship.
Unfortunately, many of our Councillors would not support this experiment which – if successful – might have been used to develop additional events in towns and villages across our Borough.
We already ask our community groups, residents and even our Officers to be creative and entrepreneurial in their thinking, but unfortunately many of our Councillors do not feel the need to do so, preferring instead to continue asking ratepayers to cover the cost of everything.
While I am disappointed at this outcome, I am determined to continue challenging Councillors to be creative in their approach to service delivery. They need to understand that we have a duty to investigate every opportunity to find new ways to provide services without needing to raid ratepayers pockets every time.