COUNCIL looks set to “gamble” some £300,000 of rate-payers’ money on a risky European Capital of Culture (ECOC) bid.
Rubber-stamped at a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Business and Culture Committee on Tuesday, members approved the money vis-à-vis the progression of a joint bid alongside Belfast City Council for the 2023 euro title.
However the nub of the problem, as outlined by council’s director of legacy, is that the Capital of Culture competition will complete whilst Brexit negotiations are ongoing. That means there is an eligibility question around whether or not any bids from cities in the North will actually be allowed.
Along with a lack of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive and availability of funding, this “ineligibility to apply for ECOC as the UK is no longer a member state” was cited as the greatest inherent risk.
The director of legacy’s report explained, “The key major risk is the cancellation of the bid process due to UK and EU Brexit negotiations.
“At this stage the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) cannot give a commitment to whether the UK 2023 designation is absolutely secure. However, DCMS have made it clear that all financial and resource investment, by a bidding city/region, is undertaken at risk.
“DCMS will not reimburse any cost incurred in the event that the UK 2023 designation is removed – either due to a change in UK Government’s stance or a change in the position of the European Commission.”
Chairing the business committee meeting, the SDLP’s Shauna Cusack recognised the risk. She remarked, “There’s an awful lot in there (the report) there’s a lot of pros, a lot of cons.” She went on to refer to the bid as “a bit of a gamble.”
However all parties were happy to support the advancement of the process.
Only Castlederg UUP councillor Derek Hussey aired any genuine concerns regarding the risk.
“I cannot see why a definite answer cannot be got from organisers,” he said. “Post-Brexit, will we be eligible – yes or no?”
Cllr Hussey also queried whether or not it would be viable for Derry City and Strabane District Council to make a bid independent of Belfast. It was subsequently revealed that this would necessitate a further £200,000 in bid spending.