Birmingham Council to axe St Patrick’s Festival funding

Birmingham Council to axe St Patrick’s Festival funding

BIRMINGHAM Council has announced plans to stop funding the city’s annual St Patrick’s Festival from 2016.

The £20,000 cut was revealed this week as the festival organising committee put the final touches to the schedule for the 2015 event.

It falls within a raft of controversial budget proposals made by the council, which include similarly devastating cuts to library, parks and care services in the city, which are due to take effect in April 2015.

“It’s very disappointing,” Anne Tighe, Chair of The Birmingham St Patrick’s Festival Committee, told The Irish Post.

“In the city in general obviously people are upset about lots of things in this budget, but from our point of view, while our funding cut was not a total surprise, it makes things very difficult for us.

“We are a community group so getting money is very difficult and the money we get from the council covers a substantial amount of the £60,000 cost of running the Festival.”

Festival organisers are now working hard to devise a plan to raise the missing £20,000 needed to secure future events, which covers the cost of a range of resources previously supported by the council, such as road closures on parade day, street cleaning, toilets, bins and first aid provisions.

“Thankfully as the budget kicks in in April 2015, our March 2015 event is secure. But we work a year ahead on the Festival and it is a concern now for us to ensure we are secure for 2016 and beyond,” Ms Tighe said.

“We have to seriously look at other ways to find that money as this year we have cut back on absolutely everything — we don’t have an office, we have cut our running costs back to the bone and we are all volunteers. We can’t cut back ourselves anymore, so that money has to come from somewhere else,” she added.

“Of course, if the community decide perhaps they don’t want the St Patrick’s Festival and Parade anymore then we are worrying unnecessarily, but if they do want to keep it we hope they will support it.”

As long-term Chair of the Festival committee, Ms Tighe is confident the event will be secured for at least the next two years.

“We’ve got 2015 covered and I’m hoping 2016 will be covered too, but this has got to be on-going,” she said.

“We had a street collection during last year’s St Patrick’s Parade, when there were 90,000 people estimated to be in attendance, and collected just £1,200.

“If each person who came to the festival gave just £1 to us, rather than the person who draws a shamrock on their face, then the parade would be covered — it would be secured well into the future.”

When contacted by The Irish Post, Birmingham City Council claimed they were unable to comment specifically on the cuts to the St Patrick’s Festival funding as they were “yet to be finalised”.

They added: “St Patrick’s Festival is one of several community events suggested as an area for potential savings. But the budget proposals are still a white paper at this stage, and the consultation period was launched this week so no final decisions have been made yet.”

Signed off by council leader Sir Albert Bore, the white paper for the 2015 budget will now undergo a public consultation period before coming into effect next year.