A Stormont minister and a local MLA have clashed over City of Culture ‘legacy’ funding earmarked for Derry.
SDLP Assemblyman Colum Eastwood says Minister Caral Ní Chuilín has “failed to deliver” on key pledges for the city’s much-heralded 2013 cultural inheritance.
He told the ‘Journal’: “We have a plan but no money to deliver it due to inaction on the part of our Culture Minister and her department. The people of Derry are fed up with glitzy announcements of investment with no delivery to back them up.”
Minister Ní Chuilín, however, says her commitment to the North West has been borne out despite the significant pressures which the Executive is currently facing.
“I have secured additional funding to take forward interventions across the North West to maximise the social and economic legacy of City of Culture,” she says.
“I have taken forward my commitment to establish a permanent DCAL presence in the North West.
“I have an Executive commitment for first call on £2.8m. capital for the North West in the October monitoring round.”
Colum Eastwood, however, insists the Minister hasn’t lived up to commitments to “secure a fruitful legacy” to the City of Culture year.
He said: “The Minister failed to make a bid to the Executive for the funding needed for legacy projects in the January monitoring round and was refused an application for £5.6m. in the June monitoring round.
“It’s time for the Minister to explain why no bid was made to fund key legacy projects in January before the impasse on welfare reform impacted on the Executive’s budget and drastically restricted allocations to departments in the June monitoring round.”
According to Mr. Eastwood, in November last year, Minister Ni Chuilín set out a ‘strategic direction’ for the legacy which involved the creation of a dedicated company to deliver cultural-based projects in Derry and the establishment of a DCAL North West office in the city to build on the benefits of 2013.
“The fact that these have not come to fruition has been met with dismay in the city,” he said.
“Responding to Assembly Questions last year, the minister committed to establishing a City of Culture Legacy company limited by guarantee and a DCAL North West office in the city during the 2013-14 financial year.
“However, there is still no such legacy delivery body in place while the contact address given for the so-called DCAL North West Office today is Causeway Exchange, Bedford Street in Belfast, which certainly doesn’t marry with the minister’s promise of a ‘permanent resource based in Derry’.
“Where does this leave Derry’s City of Culture legacy?”
In response, Minister Ní Chuilín says her department was the main funder of the City of Culture’s cultural programme of activities and events, contributing up to £12.6 million to the project.
This, she says, represented unprecedented support for the 2013 project which has been hailed as a “huge success in terms of changing people’s lives and future opportunities.”
She added: “I have publicly announced my Department’s commitment to building on the success of City of Culture 2013 and tackling ongoing social and economic challenges in the North West across the Derry, Strabane, Coleraine, Limavady and Dungiven areas.”
The Minister says she secured an additional £1m. budget in resource and £1m. in capital via an in year monitoring round in October 2013. This funding, she says, was used to take forward projects to build on the success of City of Culture by continuing key projects from January to March 2014.
“My officials have been working closely with partners in the North West since the inception of the City of Culture project. In April 2014, as part of my commitment to the North West, my Department established a North West Office. Officials work on the ground, directly with communities and organisations in the North West to provide support.
“I was disappointed that the Executive were unable to support a significant bid for funding in the June monitoring round. However, my Department is fully engaged to strategically define and manage priorities and in common with all public funding, difficult decisions must be made.”
She says the Executive has committed to providing her Department with £2.8m. of funding for capital projects in the forthcoming October 2014 in year monitoring round - should additional capital budget become available.
“This would be used to take forward capital projects in the North West such as the North West Sports Village, boxing and cultural hub infrastructure and equipment. In addition, I expect to receive £2m. of capital budget for ‘City of Culture Legacy Growth Fund’ in 2015/16 and my Department has indicated future capital plans for various other City of Culture Legacy from 15/16 onwards. These plans have been communicated to DFP.”