Concern over £5,500 funding ‘can of worms’

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Councillor John Finlay has hit out at Council for giving six local community groups £5,500 stating ‘this is opening up a can of worms’.

During last Monday’s Full Council meeting, Cllr Finlay said he ‘wasn’t against’ Ballymoney United Football Club, Ballymoney Ladies Hockey Club, Dunloy Cuchullains, Loughgiel Shamrock’s or Ballymoney Cycling Club getting £1,000 nor Ulster Youth Club getting £500 but questioned ‘where the money had come from’.

He continued: “I asked for grant aid for a local bowling tournament and was told that ‘there was no money in the budget’ however now there we have found £5,500 to giveaway.”

The Director explained that the money had come from Council reserves and that the Leisure and Amenities Committee had decided to grant the aid.

Cllr Finlay highlighted that: “If others were aware of this money being given out then they to would apply for £1,000. We have now opened a can of worms. If someone has an event then how can we refuse to give them funding?”

The money was to help Ballymoney United celebrate their 70th anniversary, Ballymoney Ladies Hockey celebrate their 30th anniversary, Dunloy Cuchullains hold an All-Ireland under 14 Hurling Feile, Loughgiel Shamrocks hold an All-Ireland Feile na nGael, Ballymoney Cycling Club host the National Cycling Youth Championships and Ulster Youth Choir hold this year’s choir.

Cllr Philip McGuigan explained that he had agreed to the applications for funding and praised Dunloy and Loughgiel on running successful events. Cllr McGuigan and Cllr Cathal McLaughlin also disclosed interests in the groups.

Cllr Roma McAfee said she ‘didn’t have an issue with the funding being given out’ adding: “The can of worms has already been opened long ago. Other community groups need to have the same opportunity to take some of this money while it is going.”

Cllr Evelyne Robinson concurred with Cllr Finlay stating: “I thought the grants were finished. Would it not have been better to put some money into the funds and open it up to everyone. Opening up the reserves makes it very difficult for Council to deny anyone for funding.

“I do not disagree with any of these getting the money but it’s left us in a difficult position.”

Responding to Cllr McGuigan’s comments, Cllr Finlay questioned why the funding applications were coming before Council in retrospect as both Dunloy and Loughgiel events had already been held. He also expressed concern that ‘two councillors had disclosed interests after the proposals were agreed’.

However the Chief Executive highlighted that ‘retrospective applications were often carried out’ and that both councillors had ‘no financial interest in the groups’.

Concluding Cllr McLaughlin added: “There are a few community groups that go through for funding and no one declares an interest, Dunloy Accordion Band for example. This is a similar thing for us.”