19 May 2022

Council quarrel over NI centenary proposals

A draft programme costing £330,000 has been passed at the Leisure and Development Committee.

 Council quarrel over NI centenary proposals

A stained glass window will be installed at Coleraine Town Hall, costing £20,000.

A £330,000 draft programme to mark 100 years since the creation of Northern Ireland has been passed by a local council committee, despite numerous objections being raised by some councillors.

Councillors at a meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens' Leisure and Development Committee last week approved a comprehensive programme of events for the coming year.

The most controversial aspects of the programme were three priority projects that will involve an additional council contribution.

A stained glass window is to be produced for Coleraine Town Hall at a cost of £20,000, while an £80,000 Community Grant Programme will also be launched.

SDLP councillor, Margaret Anne McKillop raised a concern over the cost of the Community Grant Programme, as well as an £11,000 plan to plant trees to mark the centenary.

“I was quite shocked to hear we were setting aside £100 per tree and expecting our rate-payers to foot the bill,” she told the Committee.

“In all the environmental projects I have worked on, I have never heard of trees costing £100.

"If we're going to involve the community, why are we not asking Woodland Trust to get involved?”

“Where did we pluck the figure of £80,000 from for the Community Grant? The last time we did this it was capped at £250 and we got 29 applications.

“Are we expecting a colossal amount more with this roll out?”

Bann councillor, Sean Bateson, branded some of the decisions being made 'ludicrous'.

“Where are the staff going to come from to cater for all these events, bearing in mind some will feel severely uncomfortable in taking part in these so-called celebrations?” he said.

“Budget setting is meant to be fair, equitable and acceptable to rate-payers across the council. All of a sudden, it's acceptable to add a ridiculous amount of extra pressure on already struggling rate-payers.

“I know many rate-payers across Causeway Coast and Glens who will not want to be paying a penny of extra rates towards any of these so-called celebrations.

Cllr Sean Bateson spoke against the proposal.

“As regards the stained glass window. That's in a listed building. Does it not require planning permission and subsequent consultation?

“We are living in a global pandemic and budgeting towards events that might not occur. We don't know what will happen during the course of this pandemic.”

Speaking in support of the plans, Cllr William Duddy said it was disappointing to hear councillors raising concerns about the programme, and said all events should carry the agreed branding.

“It's interesting to hear people lecture about Covid and lockdowns whenever they attend large funerals in Belfast without any concern or consideration to anyone around them,” he said.

“The logo and branding must be used in each and every one of those projects, so that not only does council get the credit, but also the staff who have put a considerable amount of work in.”

PUP councillor, Russell Watton, dismissed objections to the draft programme, saying those opposed to celebrating the centenary would never vote in favour.

“It really wouldn't matter a damn what proposals were put up for the centenary, they'd be against them anyway,” he said.

“They wouldn't have voted in any shape or form for anything to do with the centenary. I've heard it all before.”

PUP councillor Russell Watton.

An amendment proposed by Cllr McKillop seeking to cap the cost of the Community Grant Programme and liaise with the Woodland Trust over the price of trees was defeated.

Councillors then voted on the Draft Programme, which passed by 11 votes to 5 and will go to the full council meeting next month for final approval.

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