The Leisure and Development Committee of Causeway Coast and Glens Council has voted to defer any decision on its Tourism Events Grant Programme until the full council meeting next Tuesday.
A total of 25 grant applications were received, 12 for the small tourism event grant programme and 13 for larger events for the funding period April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017.
Peter Thompson, Head of Tourism and Recreation told councillors at the meeting in Cloonavin that a pass rate of 65% was applied as a minimum threshold for the potential award of funding and on assessment the total applications that scored 65% or above have requested £376,670, representing £103,413 more than last year’s total budget allocation.
He added that considering the number of successful applications and the pressures to allocate funding accordingly, that no applicant who has received funding from the Council as part of the 2015/16 process, should receive an amount greater in this year’s round of funding.
It was also recommended that that £30,000 from the Tourism Marketing Budget for 2015/2016 is allocated in lieu of Event Funding for the Circuit of Ireland as Council officers believe that this event can bring significant benefits for the area and the return on expenditure through international media exposure represents a sound investment.
DUP councillor Trevor Clarke was concerned that long standing events such as the North West 200 were already under pressure and by not providing them with the full amount of funding requested, would present the organisers with significant problems.
“I understand the pressures Council is under but we are talking about an area of our responsibility that thrives on a modest amount of business in the area.
“We are talking about events such as the North West 200, one of our key tourism events on the North Coast. We are cutting budgets in an area which has been targeted as an economic driver for growth - so we are kind of contradicting ourselves.
“If we can switch money round in respect of the special marketing budget for the Circuit of Ireland then I am keen to explore possibilities to increase the budget and provide the available for event’s marketing.
“I would like to propose that we allow some time and rather than rush through a decision when we can’t give events the support that they need. What essentially I am getting at is that we need to make sure the potential of those events is maximised and if we can arrive at a situation where some additional resources can be found then we need to look at it.”
With the Super Cup requesting £110,000 of funding and the recommended award being £85,000,
Richard Baker, Director of Leisure and Development commented that with regard to the North West 200 it received significant additional support elsewhere.
UUP councillor William McCandless asked: “The Super Cup as we know have the final hosted by the East Antrim Council. As they have the cherry on the cake with the final, how much do they contribute?”
Mr Thompson was unable to answer as he didn’t have the figures and councillor McCandless continued saying: “We have lost the final for six years, we need to make a concerted effort to get it back.”
Councillor Clarke proposed that any decision on the recommendations be delayed until full council to see if it was possible to increase the budget. This was seconded by SDLP Alderman Maura Hickey and carried by the committee.