Fears for Bexhill events due to ‘paltry’ council funding

Bexhill Roaring 20s. Photo by Sid Saunders. SUS-160724-110535001
Bexhill Roaring 20s. Photo by Sid Saunders. SUS-160724-110535001

A businessman who has poured tens of thousands of pounds into some of Bexhill’s most-loved events has said the council must improve its ‘paltry’ funding or else these events will be put at risk.

Alastair Hazell has helped to fund Bexhill Festival of the Sea, Bexhill Roaring 20s, Bexhill Lions Triathlon and many other events in recent years.

Bexhill Festival of the Sea 2016. Photo by Sid Saunders SUS-160409-151955001

Bexhill Festival of the Sea 2016. Photo by Sid Saunders SUS-160409-151955001

But Alastair, who is moving away from his hometown, says such events shouldn’t be dependant on self-funding.

He has called on Rother District Council to increase the amount of money it puts in to Bexhill’s events.

In a blog post on Alastair’s tourism website, Discover Bexhill, he said: “Through my funding I’ve laid the foundations for Bexhill as an events-led town and I now hand over the reins for others to take up the funding baton so that these events can continue to bring joy and pleasure for so many tens of thousands of people.

“This leads me to an important point.

“If you rightly think that change has to happen then I must agree with you.

“Bexhill can’t have a situation where events are so reliant on organisers self-funding them.

“Why should organisers who put on such beneficial spectacles for our town end up personally paying off the debt of their events with their own credit cards?

“This cannot and should not be allowed to continue.

“There are many small businesses who generously support events in our town, and this needs to continue and to increase.

“Rother must also improve its funding from the paltry £9,000 yearly amount (originally set aside for the Bexhill Guide).

“More funds are available if they look at the very wasteful yearly brochure distribution deal they currently pay for town guides (the money for which originally came from the Tourist Information Centre budget).

“If funding does not improve then I fear for the future of events in our town.”

A Rother District Council spokesman said: “The £9,000 we set aside each year is designed to help events get off the ground, become established and attract backing from other sponsors.

“Over the past three years this funding has supported Motofest, Roaring 20s and the Festival of the Sea, which have attracted thousands of visitors and boosted the town’s economy.

“Equivalent funding is also available for Rye and Battle and in addition, we also help established events wherever we can in other ways, such as providing free use of car parks, public land and waste services.

“On the wider issue of bringing visitors to Bexhill, we have invested millions of pounds in projects including major improvements to the seafront, upgrading Egerton Park and funding for the De La Warr Pavilion, as well as the work done to promote the area through 1066 Country.

“We are grateful for all the work Mr Hazell has done for Bexhill and we’d echo his call for local businesses to support events in Bexhill, which benefit the town as a whole.

“Working in partnership in this way has seen an increase in visitors, supporting those businesses in the town and surrounding area.

“However, we’re sure he will also understand that like all councils in the country, we have seen a significant reduction in our funding from central Government in recent years – something that is only likely to continue – and as a result only have very limited funds available.”

Alastair’s post follows remarks made by the organiser of Motofest last month (August).

The event was given money by the council three years ago to help the Motofest get started and to attract other investors.

But organiser Howards Martin told the Observer he believes RDC should further its financial support of the popular festival past the agreed three-year period as no alternative funding has been found, arguing that the event is worth £750,000 to the local economy, bringing thousands of people to the town and filling B&Bs and restaurants.

He added that they have tried ‘really hard’ to find alternative sources of funding but the lack of council backing could ‘jeopardise’ the event.

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