This evening a combination of OFMDFM, DFP and DSD came together to announce that £200,000 unallocated after the January Monitoring round is being made available from DFP to extend the Laganside Events Grant for one further year.
The Department of Finance & Personnel statement details two conditions on the funding being made available.
(i) that DSD takes steps to ensure that only groups that are viable over the longer term are assisted; and
(ii) that DSD and DCAL work together to identify a clear policy framework for continuing grant assistance to LEG.
Letters sent out by the Department for Social Development two weeks ago had– without consultation – withdrawn the possibility of the Laganside Events funding continuing past the end of March.
However, this evening, the DSD Minister Nelson McCausland also found an additional £50,000 within his department to make a total of £250,000 – taking it back down to the 2010 levels from a peak in 2011 of £300,000.
This evening's DSD statement explained "that funding had to be discontinued due to the requirement on him to make savings and redirect funding to Urban Regeneration and Neighbourhood Renewal projects". Following the resurrection of the grant for one more year, the minister said:
It is important that those groups who have received this grant previously now work to achieve long term financial sustainability and move away from reliance on public funding. I hope to engage in the coming weeks with the Cathedral Quarter groups to explore how best to achieve this necessary objective, given the current economic climate.
The Cathedral Quarter Steering Group campaigned fervently this week to highlight the impact of the funds sudden withdrawal. Tonight they stated:
We very much welcome the way in which a number of government departments have worked together with the Department for Social Development in the last number of days to find ways to restore this funding and preserve a unique part of Belfast city centre.
Festivals like Festival of Fools and Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival that were already being programmed for the months after the current fund ends are much more likely to be able to go ahead with their planned events, assuming they qualify for assistance under the terms of that DSD will set (and DFP have already indicated).
The challenge for groups right across the Laganside Area – and not just the most vocal Cathedral Quarter arts groups – is now to use the year’s notice to replan their budgets for next year in the knowledge that the current Laganside Events fund will not be in place.
Of course, in the time that OFMDFM, DFP and DSD have got together to dredge up £250,000 from the bottom of their piggybanks, DSD has still not been able to answer the following two simple questions:
Can you supply a list of the organisations who benefited from the 2011/12 round of funding through the Laganside Events Grant and Laganside Community Activity Grant, along with the value of the grant awarded.
How much has DSD given in 'Laganside' grants since the Laganside Corporation ceased and the department launched its Laganside Grant packages?