Council looks to tighten strings on festival purse

Argyll and Bute Council has access to fresh money from UK shared funding.

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Events organisers have applied for almost double the total money that can be allocated by Argyll and Bute Council’s events and festivals fund, a new report has revealed.

The authority is now proposing to tighten its criteria for any community events looking for a share of the Strategic Events and Festivals Fund, following requests from 21 groups for a total of more than £221,000 during round one of the process.

It was agreed in May 2018, prior to the application process starting that August, that the total money made available through the fund would be £113,000.

A report for a meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee on Thursday August 15 proposed to seek more evidence of what grants are for.

Applications to round two of the fund are due to be sought from Monday August 26 to Monday October 7.

This will see a pot of £90,000 distributed over the 2020/21 financial year, as agreed during the council’s budgeting process in February.

The report by Pippa Milne, the council’s executive director with responsibility for development and economic growth, states: ‘The first round fund was oversubscribed by 100 per cent, with a total of 21 bids received into the two pots.

‘This, combined with the range and scale of events, as well as the varying quality of submissions, meant the fund was complex and challenging to administer despite the clear criteria and assessment headings.

‘The failure by a number of applicants to provide the required information timeously proved time consuming for officers to follow up.

‘Financial information provided in support of a number of applications was also found to contain mistakes or gaps, which also took considerable officer time to follow up and rectify.

‘The applications covered a wide area geographically and demonstrated a variety of event types, from literary events and music festivals, to Highland games and sporting races.

‘There was also varying levels of community involvement and it was not always clear how commercial an event was.

‘As three events had benefited from council funding previously, a 10 per cent reduction was applied on their previous award.

‘There is need to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the process in order that the second round can be made as simple and clear as possible for applicants, and as streamlined as possible for officers.’

Ms Milne stated that, under the proposed changes, there would be no guarantee of the full grant being given or the full pot being used.

Applicants will also be required to show they have applied for match funding, and will have a better chance of securing funding if their event is run entirely by the community in a voluntary capacity.

She added: ‘The fund will remain competitive and every application will need to clearly evidence why the event requires public money.

‘Applicants will be asked to show precisely what the funding will be used for in an effort to demonstrate best value for the public purse.

‘And it will be made clear within the guidance that council funding should only be considered as the funder of last resort and that requests for funding should be kept to a minimum.’