Community events under threat after budget cuts

Community events across Carrick could be under threat after new council charges were introduced in this year’s budget.

Stalls and equipment used for gala days and events are now to be charged to the communities who have been given until April 4 to pay the charges ranging from £600 to £1,400.

A meeting was held with representatives from Girvan Attractions (who host the Carrick Lowland Gathering and the Civic Week), Colmonell Community Association (who host Colmonell Fun Week) and Ballantrae Community Association (Ballantrae Gala).

Many concerns were made about the impact and knock on effect within each community and Carrick as a whole.

The meeting heard that in Girvan the Carrick Lowland Gathering attracts people from all over the country. They have pipebands and dancers attending from as far afield as Ireland and tourists from USA and Canada. They already run at a loss and the further charges from South Ayrshire will impact greatly on the future of this event.

Ballantrae Gala raises money for the upkeep of Ballantrae Community Centre for which South Ayrshire is responsible. They say there has been no improvements or upkeep from the council on this Community Centre for many years and the Community Association have taken on the responsibility of trying to maintain it.

Sharon Robertson, chairwoman of Ballantrae Community Association said: “As you can imagine finding this extra money is nearly impossible and many of these events will cease to exist which will be detrimental to the communities and a devastating blow to the many volunteers who work for hundreds of hours every year to try and improve their community.

“They say that this cut to events will save them £15,000 per year.

“The equipment that they are charging us for is already there and surely belongs to the communities and not the council. Surely they should not be trying to make a profit from small rural communities who are working as volunteers to improve the very community the council seem determined to destroy.

“We are bringing tourism to the area and boosting the local economy as well as working hard to build communities. These events are vital to the rural towns and villages.”

Responding to the budget Carrick SNP councillor Alec Oattes said: “The reality is the Scottish Government has had its funding cut by at least 10% in real terms from £33 billion to £30 billion, over the last four years which in effect impacts on how much John Swinney can fund Scottish public services.

“The Scottish Government has just invested £11 million in a new Accident and Emergency facility at Ayr Hospital, which the Labour Party planned to close while they were in power at Holyrood. The Council Tax has been frozen for eight years, crime is at the lowest level for 40 years, free personal care for the elderly has been protected as well as concessionary bus travel for the elderly.”

RISE list candidate for South of Scotland Sarah Collins slammed the recent cuts from South Ayrshire Council as “unprecedented in the targeting of rural communities” and highlighted the recent announcement of library closures.

She said: “The SNP and Conservatives will tell you that this is not their responsibility.

“One will say it’s the fault of the Westminster government cutting Scottish Government funding and the other highlighting the inability to raise income for the local area as a result of the Council Tax freeze.

“We urgently need a local authority that works for every community both urban and rural: a local authority that supports children with their education instead of cutting the places available to study in their community; a local authority that supports everyone in their education including those with additional support needs; a local authority where social housing is a right, not a stigma or a label.

“Our council believes it is easier to target services in areas where they think that people are marginalised.”

r See letters page 10