Testament to how generous Birmingham City Council are known to be with their (our) cash, the organisers of July’s Banga Mela Festival in Handsworth Park – the Bangladesh Community Trust – are trying their luck and appealing to be reimbursed by the council for a £34,000 loss on the event (Birmingham Mail, 18th September).
The organisers are blaming the shortfall on the fact that the event was switched from Small Heath Park due to concerns over flooding and safety, and have approached the council asking them to pay up stating:
“All of your councillors attended and supported the event publicly – we have enough evidence to prove this – and they even admitted enjoying the event and wishing it all the best.
Therefore we are requesting them to support it financially.”
From his appeal I’m not sure if Abdul Azad, BCT chief executive, thinks that the city council elected members run Birmingham out of money from their own pocket or if he’s seriously suggesting that local taxpayers should stump up in the face of “evidence” that attending councillors were “enjoying the event”…
Birmingham City Council said that they allocated over 400 hours of staff time to the organisation of this festival and gave equipment and resources at vastly reduced rates, as well as offering the park free of charge. Additionally, the Bangladesh Community Trust is already sponsored by Birmingham City Council according to their website so expecting them to pick up the bill for unsuccessful events seems a step to far.
The council can’t be called upon to dip into the public coffers to bail out community groups everytime a local event runs at a loss. Just like the council themselves, these project organisers should be under pressure to do their sums properly and ensure they stay within their budget.
Let’s hope the city council stick to their guns and refuse this demand, making it clear that they aren’t simply the guardians of a swelling kitty of ‘free money’ open to all who apply, but are responsible for allocating publics funds sensibly and for the benefit of all Birmingham residents.