At a time when Falkirk Council leader, Craig Martin, was claiming the local authority was facing a £20million shortfall in funding the Labour / Tory coalition administration has agreed to subsidise a forthcoming major Orange Walk through the town on 25 June.
At the meeting of the council’s Executive Committee a report was presented outlining changes in the manner road traffic matters would be taken forward between the council and Police Scotland for parades and possessions.
Councillors agreed to meet the cost of the issuing of required Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders, (TTRO) for all organisations including local children’s Gala Days and heritage bodies.
However, the next report on the agenda related to a request by the Orange Order for the council to meet half the cost of the remaining transport issues with a grant to application to the Community Grants Fund to the tune of £1,145.
Labour members proposed and seconded a motion to make the award before hearing evidence that local groups such as the Bo’ness Fair Committee were not only being charged for all traffic impact matters but had been facing charges in previous year including bills of TTRO’s each year.
During a series of questions to officers put by the two SNP members of the committee, David Alexander and Tom Coleman, the committee heard that the budget for Community Grants this year was £94,000, a cut of around 15% from the previous year’s £110,000, all of which was allocated to local groups during the 2015/16 financial year.
Officers also admitted that the award would be to the detriment of local groups such as Children’s Gala Days and likely to result in a flood of applications from local groups seeking parity placing a strain on the entire grants system.
The SNP members argued that the knock on effect to local groups must be taken into account given the significant cuts imposed on the budget by the Administration and that the application also failed to meet the criteria as it related to a national event held locally while the fund was there to assist local groups.
Councillor Alexander said,
“This isn’t about the right to parade its about the proper use of a dwindling source of funding established to assist local groups put on events such as the Mariner’s Day in Camelon and the Bo’ness Fair, events which are inclusive.
“We have no difficulty with this group receiving the benefit of saving of the £725 on the cost of the TTRO they would have had to pay if the previous report had not been approved as all groups will benefit from this but the award of a further grant is a step to far.”
The council policy on such awards also recommends rejection of applications from groups with a religious or political message and many would argue that the Orange Order was both, see the extract from the report below.
A copy of the council’s Community Grant Scheme is attached as an appendix. The scheme generally requires that applications are made well in advance but given recent developments as described in the earlier report this is not possible in this case. There is also provision within the scheme that funds are not available for “activities promoting religious or political beliefs”. However, the organisers say that an award would help defray the costs of the event which forms part of the historical and cultural fabric of Scotland and which, they argue, will contribute to the local economy.
Seconding the SNP amendment Cllr Coleman questioned the accuracy of the statement that this would be good for local businesses. Cllr Coleman said,
“Lets face it, local people will avoid Falkirk town centre on 25 June which will lead to a net loss of trade for the majority of traders.”
The SNP amendment to reject the application on the grounds that,
1. The application did not meet criteria.
2. Approval would be to the clear detriment of local community groups and,
3. the impact on the budget would be considerable
was rejected by 8 votes to 2 with one abstention.