Clean-up bill would be ‘another nail in coffin’ for Sidmouth events

Africa comes to Sidmouth carnival. Ref shs 39-16TI 8727. Picture: Terry Ife

Africa comes to Sidmouth carnival. Ref shs 39-16TI 8727. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth Carnival and FolkWeek could be lumped with huge clean-up costs under proposed council cut-backs.

Sidmouth folk festival 2016. Ref shs 31-16TI 5703. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth folk festival 2016. Ref shs 31-16TI 5703. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Proposed council cut-backs that would see organisers of popular Sidmouth traditions lumped with huge clean-up bills have come under fire.

East Devon District Council [EDDC] could save £9,000 by charging events such as FolkWeek, carnivals and Ottery St Mary’s Tar Barrels for it to clear the streets afterwards.

FolkWeek bosses alone would need to fork out £4,000 if the idea becomes a reality.

Such work is currently done by EDDC’s StreetScene team, funded by taxpayers’ cash.

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The proposals have been earmarked in a transformation strategy for 2017/18 which lists actions to balance the authority’s budget.

Members of the council’s overview and scrutiny committees have recommended it does not adopt the proposals - as it would ‘penalise’ community groups.

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Sidmouth Carnival chairman Jo Hughes slammed the idea as ‘unfair’ and a ‘nail in the coffin’ for community events. She estimated that the annual spectacle costs £2,500 to put on – with extra contingency funds needed in case of poor weather - adding: “We are struggling to put a carnival on - we go out fundraising month after month. We pay out for insurance, to have the road closures - it’s costing us a lot. We do this because we want to put on a show in our town. We do this because we want to give our town a carnival. It’s so unfair, it’s the people trying to do good that are being penalised.

“The cost for FokWeek is horrific. It will be another nail in the coffin in Sidmouth.”

FolkWeek chairman John Braithwaite said the festival already spends £5,000 on waste collection and litter pickers.

“It would make a significant difference,” he told the Herald. “First of all, it is an expensive event to put on and £4,000 is significant as we operate in fine margins.”

He praised the overview and scrunity committees’ decision to oppose the plans and said it ‘recognised the value of community events’.

At the meeting last week, a StreetScene manager said: “These clean-up costs are created solely because of the special event. So, our question with our commercial hat on as an authority is should we be picking up this clean-up cost because it’s a benefit to the community and the economy, or should we be thinking more commercially and passing some of that cost on to the event organisers?”

Members argued the benefit of the events outweighed the cost and suggested alternative proposals, including charging mobile food sellers to recover part of the spend.

Councillor John Dyson, who is also a FolkWeek trustee, said the event generates millions of pounds for the whole district from visitors, not just Sidmouth.

After the meeting, Cllr Marianne Rixson, Sidmouth/Sidford ward member, said: “Tourism communities need more events, not less, to attract visitors.

“Businesses already pay a lot of money in rates, yet they face unfair competition from online sales. It seems that council tax rises inexorably upwards, yet the services provided are gradually diminishing.

“The choices being made are not fair to the residents of East Devon.”

The proposals, along with the overview and scrutiny committees’ recommendations that officers go back to the drawing board, will be debated by EDDC’s cabinet before going to full council.

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