Spending cuts scare for Fright Night

Sheffield City Centre Fright Night.....The Studio Dance Group
Sheffield City Centre Fright Night.....The Studio Dance Group
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DOUBTS emerged this week over the future of Fright Night - Sheffield’s Hallowe’en celebrations - because of the impact of council spending cuts.

Organiser Scott Barton will meet council representatives to discuss the implications of a reduction in grant of between 15% and 20% - and hopes to see the hugely popular event take place for the 13th time.

“We want it to happen, but we have got to be realistic and look whether it is viable,” he said.

Fright Night is on a list of seven major events in Sheffield that will have their grants cut as the council claws back £50m over the next year.

The authority believes organisers can take the hit without jeopardising the future of the events.

But the financial pressures are increasing on the likes of Fright Night, which does not charge for admission and has grown to attract a crowd of just over 45,000 to the city centre.

As it popularity has increased, so has the cost of staging it, because of the need, for example, for more safety barriers and stewarding.

Last year the total bill was about £50,000, with the council giving £20,000, the Arts Council £9,500, the University of Sheffield helping with some events and sponsorship plugging the gaps. This year’s prospective council cut of up to 20% comes after 20% last year.

Mr Barton, who runs Yellow Bus Events, said: “We understand the situation the council is in. It is facing unprecedented cuts which involve job losses. We are not unrealistic.”

Yet there was not the option of meeting some of the costs by charging for an event that spreads across the city centre.

“We are sitting down with the council at the end of January or the beginning of February to look at the details, to assess the options and to see whether the event is viable,” said Mr Barton. “We want to be able to continue to deliver it, but we are a small company and there is a financial risk for us.”

Decisions will be made after looking at whether some costs can be reduced and the prospects for sponsorship. Last year organisers warned of financial difficulties after South Yorkshire Police asked for £8,000 towards its costs on the day. The charge was waived after protests.

The council’s funding for the World Snooker Championship and DocFest, the Documentary Film Festival are being protected for contractual reasons and their economic value.

But other proposed cuts include £200,000 for Museums Sheffield, £106,000 for Sheffield Theatres, £8,000 for the Showroom cinema and £5,000 for the Site Gallery.

Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust will not lose funding to protect its grant from the National Lottery for the redevelopment of Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet.

Labour council leader Julie Dore said the £50m cuts package had been forced on Sheffield by the Government and will have “a massive impact” on services.

“I believe the Government is completely detached from reality and have no clue about the lives of decent, hard-working families and the impact cuts will have,” she said.

But local Liberal Democrat leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Lib Dem leader, said: “The council should look at merging jobs and buildings with other public bodies to save money and reduce cuts to services.”

The council aims to make £20m of efficiency savings and predicts up to 600 job losses.