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Kite festival and fireworks could face axe to save cash
8:15am Thursday 29th August 2013 in News
WEYMOUTH’S beach kite festival and summer firework events look set to be scrapped next year in the latest round of council cuts.
The mayor’s office is saved from the axe for now but the parks budget will be trimmed.
Proposed savings are contained in reports to Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s management committee next Tuesday.
Councillors are to begin making decisions ahead of next year’s budget setting in light of drastically-reduced government funding which is set to get worse.
The council is expected to see an almost 14 per cent reduction in its grant next year with latest financial forecasts estimating a budget gap of £921,000.
A working group of councillors has been examining services.
In a blow to tourism, the borough council is pulling the plug on some festivals and events, saving £33,356.
Proposals include scrapping the May International Kite Festival, reducing summer firework displays – except Weymouth Carnival and Guy Fawkes celebrations – introducing a revised charging system for events on council land and bringing in an hourly charge for the use of officer time for events.
The council wants volunteers to play more of a role and it will support Weymouth BID activities.
A report says events should be rationalised in favour of ‘key civic events’ that boost the economy and attract sponsorship.
Councillors are keen to keep the veterans’ festival but believe that other things should be reviewed.
The report says the kite festival, which started in 1990, has been ‘declining in popularity’ and has not generated any sponsorship or income.
Withdrawing support for this would save £9,236.
Summer firework shows on August Mondays, which attracted about 75,000 people this summer, have also not attracted sponsorship or significant financing.
Axing them will save £11,300.
Allan Pothecary, who helps organise the festival said: “Weymouth will regret this loss.
“It will lose the festival to a neighbouring town which will reap the benefits.
“The festival may have declined a few years ago but this year the prom was eight deep with people.
“I know some that have already booked accommodation for next year.
“This is very disappointing.”
Beach trader Tony Deadman said: “My brother and I have invested a lot into the seafront and to take stuff away from that is a real shame.
“The kite festival is a bit early in the year but the summer fireworks have been fantastic and proved a hit. It’s not like they’re every night.”
Gift shop owner Chris Steadman said: “These events don’t make a big difference to us but I think the council has to be careful.
“I sympathise with them but we have to be careful we don’t lose too much otherwise we will end up like Margate which is now fairly barren.”
Weymouth Hoteliers, Guest-houses and Leaseholders’ Association chairman Dave Price said he understood why the council wanted to pull the summer fireworks which he thinks are on quite late.
But he added: “The kite festival brings visitors into town so we wouldn’t want to lose that.”
Borough mayor Ray Banham said it was a ‘shame’ summer events could be lost but suggested big companies setting up in Weymouth could be approached for sponsorship.
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