Thursday, 11 August 2022

Councillors split over grant for ‘Trad’

Boat festival returns this weekend with bumper offering

HENLEY Town Council could give £2,500 towards the cost of this year’s Thames Traditional Boat Festival.

Organiser Lady McAlpine, of Fawley Hill, has applied for a grant for the event, which will be held at Fawley Meadows from July 20 to 22.

Members of the council’s finance strategy and management committee heard that the event’s accounts appeared to show that the festival had savings of £41,000.

Councillors said they agreed with awarding the grant if it was needed but wanted more information on the festival’s finances.

Councillor Sam Evans said: “Lady McAlpine has turned it in to one of the major events of the boating year. How she does it is known only to herself.

“It’s not just benefiting the festival, it’s benefiting hotels, restaurants and a number of businesses within the town.”

She said Lady McAlpine was recently widowed so could be forgiven if the numbers were wrong.

“There’s no way she’s going to ask for this money if she doesn’t genuinely need it,” added Cllr Evans.

But Councillor Jane Smewing, who chairs the committee, said: “Lady McAlpine says overheads have almost outpaced income but if they have £41,000 they don’t need our £2,500. I can’t imagine if we don’t grant it that the event won’t go ahead.”

Councillor Ken Arlett said: “There was a boat rally when I was mayor run by the River Thames Society. I don’t remember them coming to ask us for money.”

The committee will consider the grants again at its next meeting.

Lady McAlpine told the Henley Standard that the accounts given to the council were inaccurate as they were prepared by the former accountant before all the invoices for last year had been received.

She said the festival had to maintain enough money to pay for the next year’s event if it had to be called off due to flooding.

Lady McAlpine said: “We did, in essence, have just enough money in reserve to put on this year’s event.

“However, as we can’t insure against flood, there is always the horrid possibility that we may have to cancel at very short notice, which means we get no money back.”

She said money was needed to cover “basics” such as pontoons, toilets and showers, fencing, the PA system, first aid and water rescue as well as security and staff costs.

She said: “I do realise that council money has to be used sensibly but feel so strongly that this is a Henley event, which offers a great weekend’s entertainment for all ages and tastes.

“It aims to encourage use of the river and understanding of our traditional river craft.”

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