'Don't cut Christmas' - Newport councillors
9:25am Wednesday 29th January 2014 in Gwent news
A NEWPORT councillor said he wouldn’t sanction cancelling Christmas amid concern over proposals to cut funding to city-centre events.
A scrutiny meeting of Newport council yesterday heard concerns from members over proposals to end funding for the Christmas countdown and light switch-on, along with the Newport Food Festival and Big Splash, by 2016.
Other sources of funding, such as sponsorship, would be sought.
One senior council officer suggested traders can make a contribution to help with event costs.
The proposals to save £82,000 have come about through the current city council budget process, with the authority having to save £25 million over four years as a result of cuts to public spending by the UK government.
Labour Rogerstone councillor Chris Evans said the economic benefits of the Big Splash, the Christmas light switch-on and the food festival were obvious.
He said the food festival has taken three years to build up and was “incredible” in 2013, adding: “It will be very difficult for me to put my hand up at full council and say I am sanctioning cancelling Christmas”.
He cited an Arts Council report stating that only £55,000 was raised across Wales for arts sponsorship in one year and claimed £49,000 was raised in Newport alone – and suggested that would be difficult to multiply that by seven fold.
Labour councillor Miqdad Al-Nuaimi, Labour backbench councillor for Stow Hill, said he was fully in agreement over the food festival and Christmas lights, and also expressed concerns over plans to seek sponsorship and reduce funding for floral displays.
Scrutiny committee chairman Cllr Roger Jeavons said: “We can’t turn around and be the authority that cancels Christmas.”
Tory Allt-yr-Yn councillor David Fouweather said: “We are fishing from a small pool. We are not going to get the level of sponsorship we require”.
Cllr Matthew Evans, leader of the Tory group, said that the Big Splash and the Newport Food Festival are in their infancy.
He added: “We can’t afford to jeopardise these initiatives”.
Sheila Davies, strategic director of place, said: “I totally understand all the comments being made.
“The issue is, if we carry on supporting those where else do we save the money then to pay for them?”
Ms Davies, speaking after the meeting, suggested it would be good if traders would “club together to contribute”, adding: “Some things we can’t pay for”.
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