Rally row may open funding floodgates

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A DECISION to award Lurgan Park Rally £12,000 funding may open the flood gates for other organisations who applied after Craigavon Council deadlines.

This was the view of some councillors during a strongly-worded debate on North Armagh Motor Club’s plea for funding four months after the application deadline.

DUP Alderman Stephen Moutray said it was ‘deeply disturbing’ that rally organisers had known of the deadline months before and described them as having ‘quite a cavalier attitude’.

While he supported funding the rally, the DUP councillor said a letter should be sent to the organisers that ‘this is not acceptable’.

Alderman Moutray said he was aware of community groups which had been turned down for funding after submitting their applications only hours after deadline.

Sinn Fein’s Gemma McKenna said that while Lurgan Park Rally is a great event, the organisers were aware four months before of the council’s deadline and asked why the application for funding was even assessed as it was so tardy.

Referring to Alderman Moutray’s proposal to grant funding, Cllr McKenna said: “This is way outside Council policy.”

“A few hours and the community groups do not get funding. If they really needed this money, they would have made sure to have their application in on time. Craigavon Council needs to uphold its policy,” she said.

Ulster Unionist Councillor Ken Twyble said his gut reaction was not to support this, no matter how worthy.

“If we do then all community groups who have been refused could come back and launch a complaint against us,” said Cllr Twyble.

SDLP Councillor Joe Nelson said: “This organisation is treating this council with contempt. They sat on their hands doing nothing for four months.”

Mayor Carla Lockhart explained the rally organisers had submitted a letter on Monday evening explaining the reasons for the late application.

Sinn Fein Councillor Johnny McGibbon was incredulous that a letter had been submitted to the council less than a few hours before Monday’s meeting. He said despite the fact that the rally has been a success, the council should not accept this application.

Ulster Unionist Councillor George Savage said that he was going to support the application but voiced concern that this could ‘open the floodgates’ for other applications.

Cllr McKenna had proposed the council send the organisers a letter rejecting the application and offering help with any future applications. This was defeated 10 votes to 11 on the casting vote of the mayor.

Councillor Moutray’s proposal was to support the application and send a letter explaining that if the same circumstances arose next year the Council would not issue funding.

This was agreed by 10 votes to 11 on the casting vote of the mayor.

On both votes Alliance Councillor Conrad Dixon, Ulster Unionist Cllr Ken Twyble, Ulster Unionist Cllr Ronnie Harkness and Deputy Mayor Alderman Arnold Hatch abstained.

Speaking to the ‘MAIL’ after the meeting, Cllr Lockhart said: “As Mayor of the Borough I had the casting vote on this matter. I took a very conscious decision to support the late application for funding. Whilst I believe it is regrettable that the application was submitted late and indeed it is outside of policy I believe personally that the general public who have supported and followed this event for many years would have been hugely disappointed with Council if we had not supported this key event which is held annually in Lurgan Park.

“This is of huge benefit to the Lurgan area and indeed the entire Borough. It generates footfall into our town centre, and is an opportunity to showcase the fantastic facilities we have in Lurgan Park. I trust that this year’s event will be a huge success and we will endeavour to work with the organisers to ensure such does not happen in the future.”