TWO of the Helensburgh area’s biggest annual events could be set to see their funding from Argyll and Bute Council cut off entirely.

The Helensburgh Festive Lighting Charitable Trust – organisers of the town’s Christmas lights display – and the Helensburgh Winter Festival have both received financial help from the local authority’s Strategic Events and Festivals Fund in the past.

But the council has revealed that it’s considering winding down the fund in a bid to save cash – to the point where it would be reduced to zero by 2027.

The proposal forms part of a list of ‘savings options’ to be considered by councillors as they prepare to set the authority’s budget later this month.

READ MORE: Helensburgh Christmas lights secure share of council grant fund (from February 2023)

It suggests combining the events and festivals fund with two other sources of financial support – community grants and early years third sector grants.

But if the plan is approved by councillors the fund will be reduced from nearly £300,000 in 2024-25, before being cut to £197,000 in 2025-26 and £98,796 in 2026-27.

Both Helensburgh events already receive financial and in-kind support from other sources besides Argyll and Bute Council.

Other projects to have received cash from the events and festivals fund in the past include the Cowal Highland Gathering, the Highlands and Islands Music and Dance Festival, the Mull Rally, and music festivals on Bute and Tiree.

Councillors on the authority’s powerful policy and resources committee will run the rule over the proposal – and the full list of savings options – next week before setting the council’s budget on Thursday, February 22.

A report on the savings options states: “Over a period of three years the level of funding will gradually reduce by 33 per cent each year until it is zero.

Helensburgh Advertiser: The Helensburgh Winter Festival secured £5,000 in grant funding from Argyll and Bute Council last yearThe Helensburgh Winter Festival secured £5,000 in grant funding from Argyll and Bute Council last year (Image: Tom Watt)

“It is suggested that £596,000 from the council’s priorities investment fund is utilised to maintain the fund in 2024/25 and the reduced budgets in years two and three allowing the full saving to be realised immediately.”

The document said: “The proposed amalgamation of the three grant areas will enable a community wealth building approach to be adopted moving forward, allowing local organisations and communities to submit applications for the combined grant pot.

“This people centred approach places control and benefits into the hands of local people, allowing them to bid for funding for projects and services that are most valuable to local communities, and which are aligned to, or support delivery of, the council’s strategic priorities.

“It is also proposed that for future years consideration is given to implementing a simplified and streamlined online application/bidding process, providing a single point of entry for communities to bid for the grant funding, making the process as efficient as possible.

The report adds: “There will be no staff reductions as a result of the proposals. A review of the current, separate, grant application processes will be undertaken to provide a single point of entry for customers, making it easier to submit online applications for the grant funding.

READ MORE: Winter Festival gets £5,000 cash boost from key Argyll and Bute Council funding scheme (from May 2023)

“Amalgamation of the grants provides an increased level of flexibility for communities in terms of the type of project that can be applied for, and contributes to delivery of the council’s priorities.

“A reduction in the strategic events and festivals fund does not support the delivery of any statutory services for the council, however there is a risk that the number of events and festivals, which contribute significantly to the culture, heritage and economy of Argyll and Bute, will diminish.

“However, other/alternative funding streams are available, including Events Scotland funding, for this type of activity.

“A reduction in the grant funding currently used to support the running costs of a number of third sector groups may result in these non-statutory groups/organisations closing or ending certain activities.

“The proposal, if implemented, will mean that the council will require to give further consideration, in the light of the circumstances at that time, whether they wish to allocate any funding beyond 2026/27, however this has not been built into the budget estimates at this stage.”