Sparks fly over cuts to Leicester festivals' funding
Plans to scrap or cut council funding for a series of festivals and celebrations have been criticised.
Yesterday, the Mercury revealed that city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby was proposing to halve the £20,000 grant given to the Leicester Hindu Festivals Council (LHFC) so it can run a Navratri celebration at De Montfort Hall each year.
The city's annual Caribbean Carnival would also see its budget cut and grants to the Hindu Dashera celebration and the Humberstone Park bonfire would be cancelled next year in measures expected to be rubber-stamped by the mayor on November 16.
Maganbhai Patel, president of the LHFC, said the moves would upset the city's sizeable Hindu population.
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He said: "I think the mayor needs to be aware that this is an insult to Hindus.
"Some 2,000 people signed a petition when it was suggested the funding would be cut, but that doesn't seem to matter.
"The mayor has told us we will still get a cheap rate to hire De Montfort Hall, but we have had that for years anyway.
"We pay about £45,000 a year to the council to hire De Montfort Hall."
Sir Peter said the event that gets the biggest council grant – the Diwali celebration marked by Hindus – is to retain its £88,000 funding and there would be a further £28,000 for Diwali lights along the Belgrave Road.
He said: "There will be some money for Navratri, but it is important I and my assistant mayors are able to make hard decisions when we have to."
Councillor Barbara Potter, who represents Humberstone, was furious the bonfire was to lose its entire £16,000.
She said: "The mayor needs to know I will fight this because there is very little for people on estates on the eastern part of the city. People here will be extremely upset."
Coun Potter said this year's bonfire, on November 5, had been under- promoted.
She said: "There have been no posters or anything. That will mean fewer people going and I am sure that will be used as a justification for cancelling it.
"People will go out and start their own bonfires on parks. They will defy the council and do exactly what we want to avoid. The fire brigade will have to go out and it will end up costing more money."
Sir Peter said the council would help any volunteers who wanted the bonfire to continue.
The Caribbean Carnival will see its £100,000 funding cut to £80,000 next year then £60,000 after that.
Organiser Sugar Christopher said: "We are not happy about it but we know there have to be cuts. I even agree with some of them.
"We will just have to go back to the drawing board and see what we can do with the budgets that remain."
In all the council festivals budget will fall from £366,500 to £288,000 by 2014.