Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council scrutinise grant system after Down Royal was given money for high profile event

Undisclosed details about a council grant for Down Royal Racecourse has sparked calls for greater transparency in Lagan Valley Island chambers.
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Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s (LCCC) regeneration and growth committee has raised concerns over a lack of information provided to elected representatives on ratepayers’ money being given to high profile events.

Three other events were also awarded grants including £8k for Belfast Dog Show, £3,750 to the National Balmoral Championships and £7,750 to the World Daffodil Convention making a total of £26,500.Downshire East DUP Councillor, Uel Mackin said: “I am looking at the grants we are giving to places such as Down Royal (£7k) and I have some issues as to why we are supporting any events like this, when they have their own support.”

The Down Royal festival of racing in early November is considered its most prestigious event with thousands of spectators attending over two days.

Cllr Uel Mackin (DUP) raised questions about grants given to Down Royal Racecourse. Pic credit: LCCCCllr Uel Mackin (DUP) raised questions about grants given to Down Royal Racecourse. Pic credit: LCCC
Cllr Uel Mackin (DUP) raised questions about grants given to Down Royal Racecourse. Pic credit: LCCC

Grants have previously been awarded to Down Royal from the council for the same event.

LCCC event grants are given to applicants who are judged to be successful through a council criteria system, which is administered by officers outside chambers under delegated authority.

The update report on event grants was said by Castlereagh East Alderman Martin Gregg to be a “matrix, but it has not been conveyed in the papers, how decisions were made and reasons for scores…some of these are high profile events of interest”.

Lisburn South Alliance Alderman, Amanda Grehan added: “What are we paying money towards Down Royal for? Are we advertising this event?

Alderman Amanda Grehan seeks clarity on grant criteria. Pic credit: LCCCAlderman Amanda Grehan seeks clarity on grant criteria. Pic credit: LCCC
Alderman Amanda Grehan seeks clarity on grant criteria. Pic credit: LCCC

“I would like to see any information on how many bed nights are being taken in the district during this event and other events.

“I am a bit surprised by Down Royal, it is one of the biggest events in the country and generates huge amounts of money.

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“How are we balancing the award of this grant?

“I’d like to see the reasons why they got it and the economic effect to other businesses.”

A council officer replied: “The committee could change the criteria and make it difficult or impossible for such repeat grants.

“We can review the policy and bring back a report in concerns of transparency.”