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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Michael Kenwood

Belfast 'summer diversionary scheme' details released by council

Belfast Council is to spend half a million pounds this summer on a programme directing young people away from antisocial and criminal behaviour.

Details were made public at the Belfast City Council ’s last meeting before this Thursday’s elections of the summer diversionary scheme.

The annual scheme provides funding for community festivals and events in a bid to reduce tensions around July and August bonfires, but has run into controversy with Alliance, the SDLP and Green Party previously calling the fund a DUP-Sinn Féin community group “carve-up” lacking open process.

Read more: Belfast Council to spend £72,000 on July Twelfth beacons this summer

The local government auditor Colette Kane in a report two years ago said the fund could “lead to the perception of favouritism and is also unfair to groups not able to apply.”

The fund was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, and in 2021 Sinn Féin and the DUP pushed through a decision to fund again the same groups from 2019, to the consternation of smaller parties.

And in February this year the Alliance Party unsuccessfully proposed to reduce the proposed Belfast district rate rise of 7.99 percent to 7.71 per cent by dropping the summer diversionary scheme.

Councillor Michael Long said at the time: “If I can cut anything in terms of rates I will do whatever I can. I specifically have issues that £272,000 was spent on performances of artists, DJs, stage management, security, marquees and events planning in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

“I don’t think that spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on DJs being brought into Belfast is any good for anybody. I can think of much better ways to spend our money in terms of our ratepayers.” He added: “Having DJs is not a credible strategy in tackling bonfires.”

Details of this year’s diversionary scheme were thrashed out and decided upon away from the public and press in closed agenda items at the council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee. However minutes of the restricted item were released this month at the full council meeting. No details were given of a vote on the decision.

£250,000 has been earmarked for both July and August. Twaddell and Woodvale Residents’ Association received £100,000 for events in Woodvale park and other local venues from June to July. These will include a community cultural activity programme, diversionary youth work and three large scale musical events.

Charter NI received £41,170 for youth work, community, cultural, creative art and sporting events from July 4th to 12th “promoting heritage, educating on broader cultural contexts, and showcasing local artists.”

EastSide Partnership’s “Eastival” received £61,085 for a programme of music and community events from July 7th to 9th, including a large-scale community event, and the CS Lewis and Ballymacarrett walkway. The council minutes state: “this project will work with youth practitioners to identify relevant young people.”

Overall the allotted funding for July amounts to £202,255, considerably short of the available £250,000.

In August, the Féile’s August Diversionary Dance Night received £100,000 for the “delivery of a free dance music event as part of Féile on August 8th and ongoing targeted outreach work in partnership with local community groups across Belfast.” A community event will also take place in Distillery Street.

Féile also received a further £75,000 for its South and East Summer Diversionary Intervention Programme. This involves the delivery of outreach and diversionary work during the summer, in the lead up to August 8th, a two-day community festival on the Lagan walkway and river from August 6th to 7th and a music event at St. George’s Market.

Ashton Community Trust received £75,000 for a number of diversionary outreach activities and community and sporting events, including a boxing event in the lead up to August 8th. The allotted £250,000 for August has all been claimed.

The minutes state: “ in terms of allocating the underspend of £47,745 in the July Programme, council officers (will), in the first instance, meet with the five unsuccessful groups to discuss their requirements in terms of capacity building, with the outcome to be presented to a special meeting of the committee.”

Councillors have also agreed that a review be undertaken of the Summer Community Diversionary Festivals Programme “moving forward.”


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