WATERFORD City & County Council have opened applications for festival and events funding in Waterford.
Yet given the potential €3.3million deficit in funding following regulation in Irish Water rates payable to Waterford and Dublin City councils. This regulation means an attempt at equalising rates payable by Irish Water to various councils, which in Waterford now effectively means a catastrophic reduction in the amount of money available to give through funding.
An emergency meeting is to be held on Thursday and extreme pressure is expected to be applied on services in Waterford ahead of the budget.
Green Party Cllr Marc Ó Cathasaigh commented: “This was a bolt out of the blue for councillors and there hasn’t been time yet to realistically assess options. The first priority for all local politicians, councillors, TDs and Senators is to lobby the department to help close this funding gap which will affect Waterford Council over and above any other Council in Ireland.”
For 2019, a figure of €1.3m was announced in terms of available funding for local festivals and events in Waterford. But given the potential €3.3m deficit, this funding now appears set to be one of the areas most punitively subjected to cutbacks come 2020.
In recent years, Waterford has been rebranding itself as an artistic and cultural hub with a wealth of festivals on offer incorporating mental and physical health in addition to artistic development.
Last year, Waterford Walls received an independent evaluation on the value that the festival has brought to the city, which, in media terms came to an estimated €8.5m.
Further funding cuts would prove an impediment to progression and a catalyst for regression.
Said Fianna Fáil Cllr Eddie Mulligan: “This loss of circa €3.3 million cannot be borne or absorbed by the Council service reduction, increased rates or any trimming of the Community Events and Festivals budget.”
Yet with the arts traditionally one of the first areas to suffer in terms of past funding reductions, it is expected that this “trimming” will challenge the future of many festivals in the city and county.
Within hours of this story breaking on Thursday last, this newspaper sent a lengthy query to the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government in relation to City Hall’s financial difficulties. At the time of going to press, we were still awaiting a reply.