THIS year’s Halloween celebrations will not be going off with a bang after the Council cancelled Monday’s fireworks night.
Finances and an ‘awareness of the cost of living crisis’ have been cited as factors for extinguishing the event’s fuse just days before it was set to take place.
The last time Enniskillen’s skyline was lit up on Halloween was back in 2019 and this year marked the event’s return having been called off in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid pandemic and lockdown restrictions.
A Council press release read: “Given the scale of the immediate financial pressures on the Council, together with the wider cost of living crisis, the Council has been required to re-prioritise its budgets to ensure that it can meet its core financial obligations.
“The Council is aware of the challenges households face in the coming months and is undertaking a wider review of budgets and is working with its statutory partners, local support organisations, and charities to develop schemes to support residents in our district through the cost of living crisis.
“The Council recognises that the decision to cancel the Halloween Fireworks events is disappointing, but it is reflective of the very challenging financial environment in which we are operating.”
The Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Barry McElduff, pictured below, added that the optics of thousands of pounds being spent on a firework display during a cost of living crisis would not give the right impression that people’s hardship was being taken seriously.
He added: “I acknowledge, as Chair of the Council, that this will be disappointing for many.
“But there has been a strong argument made that in the current climate that to spend £40,000 on fireworks only to see that money literally going up in smoke is not the best use of public resources.
“Personally speaking, I think this demonstrates that the Council is taking the cost of living crisis very seriously.
“I think we’re facing an unprecedented time in financial challenges both in people’s households with energy bills and in terms of the Council as well.”
However, a leading business figure of the town, Noelle McAloon of Enniskillen BID has demanded to know where the saved money from this cancellation will be going and will the planned Christmas Lights switch-on also be at risk of being a no-show.
She said: “I fully acknowledge that we are in a very serious situation in terms of the cost of living crisis, but I would query as to why the Council have made this decision at this stage.
“We were in the middle of a cost of living crisis two months ago and I think those decisions could have been made then which would have allowed organisations like ourselves to perhaps look at animating the town in some way.
“I would ask what our Council is going to do with the money saved from this event not going ahead? Will that be documented? Will that money go into something else?
“If this is an exercise for the Council to absorb this money back into the Council budget and to cover Council overheads, then I think that is the wrong decision. I would worry about what their plans are for Christmas. Are the Christmas lights being considered for cancellation as well?
“I fully appreciate that some people will say that there is a better use of our money than fireworks. But at an event like this, people will come to the town and they will stay and they will eat at our restaurants, who are always busy on that night.
“That knock-on of cancelling this event will have a significant effect on our local economy.”
When contacted for further comment regarding the costs used to put the event on and how the money saved would be spent, a Council spokeswoman said: “The Council has incurred minimal costs in respect of the Halloween event, relating to the wrap-around programme of entertainment.
“The Council has no contractual or financial obligations beyond those costs already incurred.
“Fermanagh and Omagh District Council is re-prioritising budgets including the Halloween budget (£40,000) due to immediate financial pressures and the wider cost of living crisis… It is working with statutory partners, local support organisations, and charities to develop schemes to support residents in the district through the cost of living crisis.”
“The Council recognises that this decision to cancel this event is disappointing. However, it is reflective of the challenging financial environment at this time.”
When asked if there was a risk of the Christmas Lights switch-on also being cancelled, the spokeswoman added: “Fermanagh & Omagh District Council is undertaking a review of budgets and will provide an update on the Christmas lights switch on event in due course.”
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