£16,000 paid for bonfire clean-up

CRAIGAVON Borough Council have had to pay out more than £16,000 to deal with the clean up after this year’s July bonfires.

The figure has prompted Sinn Fein to raise concerns over the expenditure - second only to Belfast, which paid out £20,000.

Although the figure was down 25% on last year, it is still considerably higher than all other council areas.

The next closest council was Castlereagh, which forked out £8,000.

Six councils had no clean-up expenditure at all.

Sinn Fein councillor Johnny McGibbon said ratepayers should not be expected to pay for the clean-ups every year.

“Having the second highest bill out of the 26 council areas for cleaning up after bonfires is an unacceptable statistic,” he said.

“When you then counter in the fact that the highest bill, that of Belfast City Council, was only one fifth more than Craigavon, even though they have approximately five times the population, it is obvious that this is an issue that must be addressed.“

He continued: “There are substantial costs incurred by the health services, fire services, the police service and the Housing Executive, and a large part of the expenditure in the cleanup operation goes towards gathering up of litter such as blue plastic bags, wine and beer bottles and other debris associated with alcohol. This is unacceptable.”

He added: “The rate payers cannot be expected to pay these bills year after year and this issue must be addressed.

“There are alternatives, and those who support the burning of fires to mark the advent of the Twelfth have a duty to work in conjunction with Council to have them replaced with beacons, which can be lit in a controlled and safe environment.”

A spokesperson for Craigavon Borough Council said: “ We have been working hard with local communities around bonfires, including addressing issues such as health and safety and environmental, but there are a number of circumstances which must be taken into account when looking at Craigavon.

“Firstly, given that there are two main towns and a large number of villages, Craigavon has 10-12 bonfires spread across the Borough throughout the year.

“Secondly, local communities have taken on board the pollution message by using more wood in their fires. Whilst the cost of removal and reinstatement of the area has decreased over the years, the actual cost of the disposal of this material has increased.

“Thirdly, bonfires elsewhere may take place on other land such as NIHE or DRD with those landowners having to pick up the bill.”