North Devon Bloom hopes dashed by withdrawal of grant

AWARD-WINNING floral displays in North Devon could be under threat after a vote to uproot grants for the area s In Bloom effort. The Executive of North Devon Council has decided that due to the economic situation, the �23,319 which would have gone to the

AWARD-WINNING floral displays in North Devon could be under threat after a vote to uproot grants for the area's In Bloom effort.The Executive of North Devon Council has decided that due to the economic situation, the �23,319 which would have gone to the district's In Bloom committees for displays this summer will now be spent elsewhere.It has left fears of a huge shortfall in organiser's budgets and the worry that visitor numbers could suffer as a result.Barnstaple In Bloom is facing the prospect of an �8,000 hole in its funding and furious committee chairman John Wilsher said the news was "like being stabbed in the back." "In December we had a high level meeting with several council officers and left with the impression that this year our grant would remain the same," he said."Suddenly we find those discussions were meaningless - with no consultation or prior warning suddenly there's no grant."It's unacceptable, sneaky, underhand and shows a total contempt of all the committees and volunteers doing the work a council should be doing - and as others do in the rest of the country."Ilfracombe In Bloom chairman Ivan Frances said the committee had erred on the side of caution and were busy organising numerous fundraising events to offset the loss of their grant, but would still be around �5,000 short on the previous year's budget of �15,000. "It's disappointing as it is our 25th year and I would have liked to enter the West Country In Bloom competition, but it was not to be," he said."There will still be flowers and we are determined we won't let Ilfracombe down. There are only six of us on the committee, but we rely on a lot of help from other people and groups in the community."The annual In Bloom budget for Barnstaple was around �45,000 last year, coming from sponsorship by local businesses, �8,600 from NDC and an increased �6,500 from Barnstaple Town Council.North Devon Council has said Bloom committees will now have to apply for smaller individual amounts from each ward councillor in its area.Mr Wilsher added: "The plants the grant would pay for have been produced, so that leaves a potential �8,600 shortfall and although we have �4,000 in reserves, the scope is still there for the bloom to fold."Deputy leader of the council, Cllr Des Brailey, said there had been no guarantees given about finances for In Bloom this year. "A judgement had to be made and of course In Bloom is important, but there's only so much money to go around," he said. "We felt people's jobs, or those facing redundancy or difficulty with housing, were more important, so we will be looking towards the voluntary sector with this money.


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