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Cost of 'community hall' fund launched by Paul Givan quadruples

DUP ministers Arlene Foster and Paul Givan with Billy Thompson of Orange Community Network at Salterstown Orange Hall in October last year to announce the new funding scheme for community halls

THE cost of a new grants scheme for 'community halls' by DUP minister Paul Givan has quadrupled.

The Community Halls Pilot Programme - launched by Mr Givan alongside Arlene Foster at an Orange Hall last October - will release £1.9 million rather than the £500,000 originally earmarked.

Mr Givan said at the time that priority would be given to community halls subjected to criminal damage or underused due to disrepair, but it was unclear if GAA properties would qualify.

Criteria stated that funding could not be used for "sporting infrastructure".

The communities minister said yesterday said there were 90 successful bids out of more than 850 applications and a "robust, transparent and accountable assessment process was followed".

The press release included a comment from William Strange, deputy district master of Sixmilewater Orange lodge, who said it was "a great boost for our hall and the local community".

Despite requests from The Irish News, a full list of the fund's successful applicants was not released.

A scheme for marching bands reinstated by Mr Givan last year also ran 50 per cent over budget, costing almost £300,000.

The overspend was highlighted when the DUP minister scrapped a £50,000 Irish language bursary programme last month, before reversing the decision this week.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood last night said given previous concerns that the community halls scheme risked excluding sporting organisations like the GAA, it is "imperative that minister publishes a full breakdown of recipients".

“Despite previously claiming the department was in a stretched financial position, over the last number of days the communities minister appears to have found funding for a number of projects from nowhere.

"He should also explain where cuts will come from to support the resource allocation on these projects. It should not be a pre-election bonanza.”

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