Funding freeze ends, but grant concerns remain

Alnwick International Music Festival 2012'Chairman Alan Symmonds.
Alnwick International Music Festival 2012'Chairman Alan Symmonds.

A number of community groups and events have been caught up in the temporary freezing of a county-council funding source.

Last week, we reported that the new Labour administration at County Hall had put a moratorium on the Community Chest fund as part of a wider review into county-council spending.

It is now up and running again, although groups with time-sensitive bids have still been hit by the freeze.

Alnwick Music Society hosted a special memorial concert for Duchess Elizabeth in April.

Chairman Roy Todd said that he was given assurances that a retrospective bid would be considered, but has been told that is no longer the case.

Mr Todd said: “It does mean that that concert at the end of last season cost us a great deal more than we would usually pay for a concert. We had every confidence of receiving money, as they have supported us in the past.

“Events taking place in the first part of the financial year are immediately no longer eligible, which is very unfair.

“Also, because the money is in the budget and has to be spent, events towards the end of the year will have a better chance of getting funding, regardless of merit.”

The Gallery Youth Project, in Alnwick, has had to alter its summer programme.

Project manager Ian McRae said: “We have had to cut it shorter and pull back on some of the things that we would have been doing.

“It’s going to be young people and community groups that lose out in the short term and some events will have to be cancelled.”

Alnwick International Music Festival, which takes place at the start of August, has also been told its bid will not be dealt with retrospectively.

Festival chairman Alan Symmonds said: “They have told us that because we are a time-sensitive event, by the time they resolve it, we will not be able to get any retrospective payments.”

Fortunately, the festival committee had already agreed to develop further youth and local music events, which means they are in the process of applying for a new grant to support these year-round activities.

Yesterday, a county council spokeswoman said: “The Northumberland County Council community chest is up and running again and we will be holding meetings to discuss bids in the very near future.

“There is no loss of funding for any of the areas in the county. The council has made a guarantee to safeguard the community chest fund for the next two years, however, its future after this will depend on national government financial cutback decisions.

“At a cross-party meeting this morning, all parties left satisfied with the results.”