THE council’s budget for Twelfth of July bonfires is set to rise to £3,000 per site to help offset insurance costs.
A review of the Bonfire Management Programme was undertaken in October 2018 and approvedh by Council in December 2018 with a budget of £2,700 per site for family fun activities for groups who adhere to the Bonfire Management Protocol.
The current scheme is a replacement for the previous controversial legacy Antrim scheme which hit the headlines back in 2015 when it emerged that ‘family fun day’ grants were being spent on items like pallets - and bouncy castles which were provided by a then-sitting council member, Adrian Watson.
Council officers met with Bonfire Representatives from across the Borough in February 2020 to receive feedback in relation to the 2019 programme and to identify any issues that may exist in advance of the registration of participating sites for the 2020 programme.
A similar meeting was held with members of the Community Planning Committee, at which feedback from the site representatives meetings was presented and discussed.
A report due before the committee this week said that, across all three meetings, there was a general consensus that the aims and objectives of the programme, and the way in which it is currently delivered is still fit for purpose.
However specific issues were raised at the meetings in relation to the increase in the cost of obtaining one day event insurance - for some groups this has increased dramatically, particularly if the event includes the hire of inflatables and a firework display.
In some sites this has been in excess of £200.
It was also suggested that statutory agencies and bonfire builders be invited to attend pre-collection date inspections and not just those planned to take place in June and early July.
Pre-event clean-ups were encouraged to take place across all sites prior to the family fun day/festival events taking place.
However as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bonfire Management Programme for 2020 was suspended.
The report said that, in light of current COVID-19 restrictions it is uncertain whether or not it will be possible to deliver the Bonfire Management Programme in 2021.
In the event that restrictions are relaxed, council officers are currently compiling registration packs for dissemination to all potential participating sites.
Sign-up dates have been scheduled to take place in Antrim Civic Centre and Mossley Mill or via Zoom on April 15 and 16 respectively and the collection start date has been proposed as Friday May 14 2021.
Taking into consideration the increased insurance costs for the family fun day/festival events experienced in recent years, it is proposed that the individual budget per site which currently sits at £2,700 be increased to £3,000 in 2021 and beyond.
The report said that provision for the rise has been included within the 2021/2022 estimates.
Should Festival Events be permitted to take place in July 2021, participating sites will be required to ensure compliance with all relevant and applicable COVID-19 NI Executive and Public Health guidance and regulations.
Following the registration of sites in April, a further report will be brought to Committee in May 2021.