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Voluntary groups ‘impeded from staging events’ due to new legislation

Newry, Mourne and Down Council exploring ways to help groups affected

Voluntary groups could be given a concessionary rate to help cover costs of new legislation which could otherwise limit or prevent them running events in Newry, Mourne and Down.

Already charities and community groups have been exempted from charges after a decision taken by council.

But there have still been concerns of the effects on others groups which do not fall into the charity or community group category.

For that reason, council is to consider halving the costs involved for voluntary organisations.

Sinn Féin’s Mickey Ruane, the party’s leader on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, warned that new changes in legislation have the potential of “impeding the capabilities” of groups to organise events.

And he said the council must act to ensure this does not happen.

Councillor Ruane explained: “In February a paper was presented to councillors highlighting the changes in legislation which were to commence in September 2017, which meant council would take on responsibility for road closures necessary for sporting, entertainment and community events.

“The recommendation at that time was that a charge of £400 for small events and £600 for larger events would apply. This was absolutely rejected by Sinn Féin.

“At subsequent  meetings it was agreed that events being organised by registered community associations and/or registered charities would be free of charge.

“To help absorb costs the council set aside £45,000 in the 2017/18 rate.”

But, he said, following on from the changes, councillors felt  the existing costs were still prohibitive for many voluntary groups which do not all into the charity or community group category.

Councillor Ruane continuned: “”A paper is to be presented at the Regulatory & Technical Services Committee meeting this month suggesting a concession fee – which would be 50% of the above charges – for events organised by voluntary sector.

“Council staff are looking at a range of ways to reduce costs which may include block advertising for a number of events.”

He explained that ultimately any final decision had to balance the financial impact of the new legislation with ensuring that charity, voluntary and community groups were “not impeded from hosting events”, many of which were “of great benifit to local communities and in particular the most vulnerable in society”.

“We recognise that the legislation will mean an extra financial burden on the council thus there has to be a charge to promoters who wish to stage events,” added Councillor Ruane.

“However, we must balance that with ensuring that local community groups and charities are not impeded from organising what many of us see as vital events which promote health, safety and community harmony.”

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