What Nelson takes away with one hand, Sammy can replace with the other

laganside boundaryThis 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Letters sent out by the Department for Social Development two weeks ago had– without consultation – withdrawn the possibility of the Laganside Events funding continuing past the end of March.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?

cross-posted from Alan in Belfast

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  • Catherine Couvert

    Good to hear: abrupt cuts are always catastrophic, at least some ‘transition’ time now, although there are tough times ahead. I’m a great fan of Cathedral Quarter and Laganside groups, venues and festivals. They have made Belfast a more welcoming and culturally richer city to live in.

  • sharman

    Very happy with the funding being restored, but why has DCAL got involved. One government department is bad enough but two? Over the past 2 weeks Caral Ni Chuilin our Culture and Arts Minister has said precisely nothing about the disgraceful actions of DSD. She and her department forfeited any right to determine the spend of this fund when they did nothing to support the campaign. She is an absolute disgrace. This is not a party political statement, but simply a statement of fact. Dereliction of duty should not be rewarded by a say in the future.

  • Johnny Boy

    It’s genius, the grant has been effectively cut by £50,000 but they’ve made it seem like a good news storery. lol.

  • Mr Angry

    “It’s genius, the grant has been effectively cut by £50,000 but they’ve made it seem like a good news storery. lol.”

    So it would appear, Government spin at its finest. They also appear to have managed to introduce some form of “survival of the fittest” mechanism in relation to any future funding.

    I suspect that voluntary and community based arts groups will have to jump through ever more hoops to qualify for funding and produce factual data as to their value for money or be driven into the ground.

  • raftonpounder

    How do you say volte-face in Ulster Scots?

    I cant help feel it was an ill-considered decision by Nelson which he has been told to reverse by the party.
    A completely misguided solo run only supported by David Vance.

  • Rapunsell

    I’m not too sure Nelson thinks this was an ill considred decision at all.

    What’s the long term DSD plan here? Cuts have to be made. Remove this laganside grant funding but how. Do you not think that Nelson and his advisors would have been expecting a backlash and would have been prepared to extend the programme for another year following that backlash. Do people really think that the DSD officials and the DUO advisors are that stupid? They ain’t. believe me. the cosy consensus over who gets the money has now been broken and by god even the groups in receipt of the funding now agree with the aim of sustainability( presumably without public funding) in the futur . Expect less than a united front in the future about who can claim sustainability and who can’t! And the scheme can now be radically altered or removed as required. If you doubt what I’m saying is correct take a look at how changes to the DSD regional infrastructure programme have been handled. A bit of transition time but the Minister( actually the departmental officials who have been making the plans for years) gets the outcome he wants anyway

  • Catherine Couvert

    Rapunsell, I tend to agree with you on long term DSD plans. The thought struck me about the regional infrastructure programme too.