Council to spend £60k on own celebration despite cutting grants to community festivals (From Harrow Times)
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Brent Council to spend £60k on own celebration despite cutting grants to community festivals
4:14pm Tuesday 14th August 2012 in News
Brent Council plans to spend up to £60,000 on its own post-Olympics festival a year after cutting funding to scores of community and religious celebrations.
The council has allocated the cash for “infrastructure” for the one-day Brent Celebrates a Golden Summer event in Gladstone Park on September 9, including stages for live music and food and information stalls.
But the council has been accused of “breathtaking arrogance” for spending the money after cutting £231,000 from the festivals budget last year, including Navratri, Christmas, Chanukah and St Patrick’s Day.
Hundreds of members of the Hindu community protested outside the Civic Centre last summer over the cuts to Navratri and launched a petition to reverse the changes, signed by more than 6,000 people.
Liberal Democrat leader Paul Lorber told the Harrow Times it was “crazy” to spend £60,000 on a one-day event that could be affected by bad weather.
He said: “As far as I’m concerned it’s an appalling amount of money just to put up staging and marquees and things for one day.
“Local community organisations will be furious that the Labour council claimed lack of money to justify cutting St Patrick’s Day, Navratri, Eid and Christmas celebrations but then found £60,000 to bankroll just one event.
“The council is showing breathtaking arrogance in pretending it knows what’s best for local people instead of giving the money to local groups who have the contacts and know how to organise things like this.”
Brent faces having to strip out £100million from its budget in the four years from 2011-15 after massive reductions in central Government funding – which it blamed for having to cut the grants last year.
Cash for St George's Day was also cut, as was money for Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) month and the festive lights.
Only bonfire night and Holocaust Memorial Day remained unchanged, while Diwali had £25,000 slashed from its £97,000 pot and Respect and Countryside Day combined into one festival.
But in a statement, the council said that 20,000 people were expected to attend next month’s event, working out at just £3 a head for everything from crowd safety to litter picking.
It added: “The £60,000 budget is guide figure for maximum spend. We hope to come well under that and will also generate funds from food concessions and stall holders.
“We have recently scaled down our festivals programme and made considerable savings this year.”