Sunderland Airshow proposals defeated: Councillors vote down plans to cut annual event to once every two years

Proposals to slash funding for the Sunderland Airshow and host it every two years have been snubbed by council bosses.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 7th March 2019, 12:55 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th March 2019, 12:58 pm

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The Swiss Air Force, part of the Sunderland Airshow line-up
The Swiss Air Force, part of the Sunderland Airshow line-up

At yesterday’s budget meeting,Sunderland City Council’s Conservative group unveiled a raft of alternative budget proposals for 2019/20 to save £2.02million.

This included holding the airshow on alternate years, reducing allowances for councillors and increasing income from dog fouling and littering fines.

Tory leader on the council, Coun Robert Oliver, said the proposals aimed to cut Labour’s proposed 3.99% council tax rise in half and “return the money to the people.”

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He also stressed that the airshow plans would “delete” funding for the event, rather than the event itself, and called for more efforts to attract sponsorship.

“We’re all in favour of airshows, whether they occur once a year, once every two years, or even twice a year,” he said.

“The point is, yes prime these events and get them going but years and years later, decades later, that should have moved on and should be paying for itself through sponsorship or through the revenue offer.

“It’s about time that happened, it’s about time that we did more to get more sponsorship in so that these are not a drain on the council tax.

“Yes, we welcome the money that comes in for business but it shouldn’t be always coming back to the council tax-payer.”

Conservative budget proposals aimed to draw £507,000 from the 2019/20 budget for the event and were backed by the Liberal Democrat and Others group on the council.

Group leader, Coun Niall Hodson, said: “We do recognise in principle, this is an attempt to address council spending and shift a saving to the residents of the city.”

However, Labour bosses opposed the proposals , defending the airshow and its importance for Sunderland residents.

Cabinet Secretary, Coun Paul Stewart, said: “The airshow puts Sunderland not just on the map nationally but internationally and brings millions of pounds from visitors to our shops, pubs and hotels in the city.”

Council leader, Coun Graeme Miller, added there was huge public support for the event and accused Tories of being “out of touch” with the residents they represent.

“Some of these people can’t afford a holiday, some of these people are unemployed and they’re able to get, if the weather is nice, a lovely weekend down in Seaburn and Roker,” he said.

“I think if we did not strive to deliver that as a council, we would be letting the residents of this city down.

“We have got sponsorship but sponsors have been increasingly difficult to find after nine years of austerity so it leaves us with a shortfall which this council pays for.”

“That is part and parcel of good governance for the residents of the city.”

He added: “If we’re going to be a vibrant city, an events city and a destination city, the biggest airshow in Europe is something we have to support.”

Following debate, the raft of Conservative amendments were defeated by majority vote, with 11 votes in support and 44 against.

Following the council budget setting for 2019/20, the airshow is expected to go ahead as normal this year.

Last summer on its 30-year anniversary, the event attracted around 600,000 visitors over three days.

Defeated Conservative amendments included:

£10,000 – Delete meals after full council meetings.

£171,000 – Reduce members allowances

£180,000 – Reduce trade union facility time

£50,000 – Delete from contingencies (Spice Girls concert)

£9,000  -Delete advertising in Community Vibe

£507,000  -Delete Airshow this year and move to bi-annual event

£500,000  -Delete increase in Area Committees budget

£100,000  -Increase revenue from enforcement of litter, fly tipping and dog fouling fines

£323,000 – Increase parking revenue

£170,000 – Transfer from general reserve

They aimed to save:

£ 1,900,000 -Limit council tax increase to 1.99%

£120,000 – Create 5 park warden posts

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service