COUNCILLORS have decided to delay the release of funding to support major events across Argyll and Bute.

A new round of applications to the strategic events and festivals fund (SEF) opened in October, and cash was due to be awarded this month – but a report recommended that councillors should consider delaying a decision, and review it in two or three months, rather than giving money to events that end up being cancelled due to ongoing restrictions on mass gatherings.

At a virtual meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee, on Thursday, February 18, the recommendations were agreed to delay a decision on the latest round of funding.

Three events – the Mull of Kintyre Music Festival, the Cowal Highland Gathering and the Mull Rally – required and received some funding in 2020 despite the events not having taken place.

Helensburgh Winter Festival has previously received funding through the scheme. The showpiece event – the biggest of the year in the town – was one of eight events cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, which had been in line to receive money.

The council's executive director Kirsty Flanagan said: “At the Business Continuity Committee meeting on June 11, 2020, members agreed that a grant pot of £90,000 be made available for SEF over financial year 2021/22.

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“The call for applications was issued on October 22, 2020 and closed on December 7, and the applications, of which there are 10, were due to be consideration by the policy and resources committee at the February meeting.

“At the time of putting out the call for SEF round 3 applications in October 2020 we were obviously not facing a national lockdown and things were looking slightly more positive.

“However, this position has changed very quickly and we are now facing a much more serious position than in March of last year.

“Given the uncertainty and unpredictability it would seem pragmatic to delay and review the position over the next two/three months rather than agree to award grants for strategic events and festivals that will not be able to go ahead as planned.

“This will allow both the council and the event organisations themselves to hopefully be clearer as to the feasibility and viability of these events taking place in 2021.”

Ms Flanagan concluded: “Unfortunately the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is still unknown and the status of strategic events and festivals will continue to change.

“The loss of any event from the local economy will be significant, and as such in an effort to support the economic recovery it is important that funding support is available to support strategic events when they are in a position to go ahead.”

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