"Devastation" over Morecambe festival funding cuts

February 07, 2020

Morecambe festival organisers have spoken out against a council decision to cut festival funding.

Morecambe Town Council has decided to slash its annual main festivals budget from £55,000 to £30,000 leaving promoters of some of the town's most popular events feeling frustrated.

David Brayshaw, chair of Morecambe Carnival committee, said: "I think it's a sad day for Morecambe.

"Slashing festival funding is ill-advised and short-sighted when so many people have worked so hard to put Morecambe back on the tourist map."

Kathryn MacDonald of More Music, who run the annual 'Catch the Wind' kite festival, said: "I think it's devastating for Morecambe. 

"We've made so much progress with festivals."

And Elena Gifford of Deco Publique, who co-run the annual Vintage-by-the-Sea festival, said: "To take funding away from festivals which give the town credibility as a cultural destination, is a backward step."

June Ashworth, chair of Morecambe Town Council, said: "We all know that the festival funding is important to Morecambe.

"We would like to give lots and lots of money to them but we only have so much to go around."

The festival funding, proposed as part of the town council's 2020/21 budget by the ruling Morecambe Bay Independent (MBI) group, was originally set at £20,000.

Coun Ashworth told Beyond Radio the MBIs decided to increase this to £30,000 after seeing the results of a residents' 'Have Your Say' survey which ranked festival grants as the town council's number one spending priority.

A committee will now come up with a criteria for deciding which festivals get the money.

Meanwhile, the town council will also spend £100,000 on ward grants to be divided up between the council's geographical areas.

Festivals based in town council wards - such as Bare or the West End - could apply for one of these ward grants.

But some councillors hated this idea, claiming that the MBIs could dictate which wards the money would be spent in.

Labour councillor Janice Hanson called the ward budget concept "absolutely ludicrous".

The MBI budget, which was voted through at a meeting at Morecambe Town Hall on Thursday night, was based on no increase in the town council's proportion of council tax.

A rival budget proposal by councillors Jim Pilling (Lib Dem) and John Bates (Renew) was defeated

They proposed a five per cent increase in council tax percentage, but this would have kept the festivals budget at £55,000, while also creating a new deprivation fund for struggling families, keeping The Dome toilets open, and paying £10,000 towards a feasibility study to see if Morecambe Town Council could buy the derelict Frontierland site.

Morecambe Town Council is a parish council made up of 26 elected members. They raise money through council tax and each year create a budget to lay out how this money should be spent.

The 2020/21 budget is as follows:

By election fund £6000
CCTV £5000
Town council office fund £37000
Community awards £500
IT and office equipment £4000
Environmental Enforcement Officer £25000
Festivals £30000
Remembrance Day £50
VE Day £1500
Armed Forces Day £1500
General Reserves £20000
Morecambe in Bloom £2000
Ward grants £100000
Dog signage on prom £8000
Litter/recycling (possibly talking) bins £10000
Street cleansing/equipment £6000
Neighbourhood Plan £2000
Newsletter £4000
Staffing and administration £57000
Staff training £4000
Total £323,550
You can see the alternative proposed budget by Councillors Pilling and Bates at http://www.morecambe.gov.uk/media/uploads/2020/02/Agenda-Pack-Full-Council-February-2020-public-updated.pdf