Council admits it cannot fine groups who break bonfire policy
A COUNCIL has admitted its bonfire management programme "does not allow groups to be financially penalised if they do not comply".
Ards and North Down Borough Council is among several local authorities that offer funding to bonfire groups for related community events.
The policies, which differ between councils, encourage groups to meet criteria ranging from not burning tyres to avoiding paramilitary or offensive displays.
Ards and North Down's policy, developed in 2014, offers funding of up to £2,300.
The policy refers to "core principles", such as that groups must be constituted, and "local agreements" including not burning toxic materials.
- Resident fears loyalist bonfire 'too close to homes'
- Confederate flags put up in south and east Belfast
- Doug Beattie calls for removal of Moygashel UVF banner
However, the paper appears to suggest that while the groups agree to abide by the 'core principles', they only agree to endeavour to fulfil the 'local agreements'.
In the section where groups are to provide a signature, it says they agree to "accept the core principles" and "work in partnership with the council" on the 'local agreements'.
When asked about the policy's enforceability, the council said it "does not allow groups to be financially penalised if they do not comply with either the principles or the agreements", but does "allow council to withhold or reclaim funding" if it has been "spent on 'ineligible costs'".
"It allows the council to work with local community representative to ensure bonfire sites are managed and local culture is celebrated in a positive manner," a spokeswoman said.
"The policy does not allow groups to be financially penalised if they do not comply with either the principles or the agreements, as we endeavour to work with and support communities to ensure principles are met and work with statutory partners in relation to local agreements.
"The policy does however allow council to withhold or reclaim funding if monies provided for the cultural expression festivals have been spent on 'ineligible costs'."
The spokeswoman added that the council "has not recorded any groups failing to abide by core principles".