Event funding in the Borders

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Local Democracry Reporting Service

Galashiels councillor Harry Scott criticised the council for allowing events such as the Melrose 7s to spend grant money on employee wages, while community groups are forbidden from doing so.

Under current rules, community groups cannot receive council funding if the money will be used for employee wages. However, events which receive funding from Scottish Borders Council, such as the Borders Book Festival, can spend the money on salaries and consultancy fees.

At a meeting of Scottish Borders Council in Kelso on Thursday, May 16, Councillor Scott called for parity in the funding criteria: “This year, the Melrose 7s, which attracts major sponsorship, was awarded a grant of £8,000.

“The Melrose Book Festival has in the past received a grant of £25,000. The published accounts for the Melrose Book Festival for 2017 show a total income of £336,941, and two directors paid £25,000 each, ‘as part compensation for their contributions of skill and experience in the field of literary festivals’.

“This places those undertaking community projects at a serious disadvantage when compared to those organising what Scottish Borders Council class as events. Both bring benefit to the community in general, or a section of it, but why discriminate against unpaid volunteers?

“I am not suggesting Scottish Borders Council ceases providing financial support to events which bring economic benefit to the community; however, the discrimination needs to end.”

Councillor Sandy Aitchison said: “The funding available for community events does have different criteria to those events which are defined by Scottish Borders Council’s events plan.

“The council funds these latter events, which can include paid salaries or fees, because of the significant economic impact they have on the Borders as a whole.

“On an interim basis, it was agreed that the grants available from the new community fund would be based on the current criteria for the community grant scheme. A condition of that scheme is that grants cannot pay for wages, salaries, fees or work.”

Mr Scott replied: “I’m disappointed in that answer. I do not see why this cannot be changed to create a level playing field.”