Details of council spending on controversial fund to prevent anti-social behaviour in Belfast revealed

SOUNDS A GOOD IDEA: The council has heard that events like the Féile dance night helped young people stay out of trouble
SOUNDS A GOOD IDEA: The council has heard that events like the Féile dance night helped young people stay out of trouble

Half-a-million pounds is to be spent on a scheme to divert young people in Belfast from anti-social behaviour this summer.

The annual summer diversionary scheme by Belfast City Council offers funding for community events such as festivals in a bid to reduce tensions around July and August bonfires.

It has faced controversy with Alliance, the SDLP and Green Party previously calling the fund a DUP-Sinn Féin community group “carve-up” lacking open process.

The fund was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, and in 2021 Sinn Féin and the DUP pushed through a decision to fund the same groups again from 2019.

In February this year, Alliance unsuccessfully proposed to reduce the proposed Belfast district rate rise of 7.99 percent to 7.71 per cent by dropping the scheme.

Details of this year’s scheme were thrashed out and decided upon away from the public and press at the council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee.

However, minutes of the restricted item were released this month at the full council meeting. No details were given of a vote on the decision.

£250,000 has been earmarked for both July and August. Twaddell and Woodvale Residents’ Association received £100,000 for events in Woodvale park and other local venues from June to July.

Charter NI received £41,170 for youth work, community, cultural, creative art and sporting events from July 4th to 12th “promoting heritage, educating on broader cultural contexts, and showcasing local artists".

EastSide Partnership’s “Eastival” received £61,085 for a programme of music and events.

Overall, the allotted funding for July amounts to £202,255, considerably short of the available £250,000.

In August, the Féile’s August Diversionary Dance Night received £100,000 for the “delivery of a free dance music event as part of Féile on August 8th and ongoing targeted outreach work in partnership with local community groups across Belfast”.

A community event will also take place in Distillery Street.

Féile also received a further £75,000 for its South and East Summer Diversionary Intervention Programme, which includes a two-day community festival on the Lagan walkway.

Ashton Community Trust received £75,000 for a number of diversionary outreach activities and community and sporting events, including an August boxing event.

The minutes state: “In terms of allocating the underspend of £47,745 in the July Programme, council officers (will), in the first instance, meet with the five unsuccessful groups to discuss their requirements in terms of capacity building, with the outcome to be presented to a special meeting of the committee.”

Councillors have also agreed that a review be undertaken of the scheme “moving forward".