Northern Ireland Assembly, 22 February 2011
I ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure whether he will consider compensating those bodies which incurred significant expenditure in planning the five elite sports facilities for which funding has now been withdrawn.
Nelson McCausland (DUP)
All Departments are going through the biggest budget cuts that have been experienced in a generation, as a result of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat imposition on our Budget. I say that for the benefit of Members who had forgotten that. As a result, while some of my Department’s key priorities were met, others were not. I am disappointed not to have the funding to invest in the major facilities and infrastructure programme, which is more commonly known as elite facilities. I am conscious of the commitment and work put in by organisations and individuals in developing their projects and in bringing all the preferred bidders’ bids to the outline business case stage.
As regards compensating those preferred bidders for the expense of developing business cases, in line with general and accepted practice for all applications for capital funding to my Department and, indeed, to many organisations within and without government, any expense incurred in making a bid to the programme was taken at risk. It was made clear to applicants at various stages throughout the process that that was the case and that the programme was dependent on securing the related budget. In such circumstances, I regret that there is no provision to refund costs incurred by the preferred bidders.
Brian Wilson (Green)
I thank the Minister for his response. Unfortunately, I find it very disappointing. The withdrawal of funding at this late stage is unacceptable. I will refer to the case of Ballyholme Yacht Club and its application. I declare an interest, as the council provided a £5,000 grant towards the application. The club spent £40,000 on putting forward its application, which is money that could have been used in the club. Does the Minister not feel any responsibility to offer some form of compensation?
Nelson McCausland (DUP)
The Member used the word “withdrawal”, but money was not actually withdrawn. Money was bid for, but, when the Executive allocated resources to the various Departments, money was not allocated to that particular purpose. Therefore, it is not a case of withdrawing that money; it was not there to be withdrawn.
I dealt with the issue that the Member raised about refunds in my initial answer. It is not general or accepted practice for refunds to be made in applications for capital funding, and those projects are taken forward at risk. I understand and share the Member’s disappointment that we are unable to take those projects forward. It would give me great pleasure to do so. However, we are unable to do that at present, and that is an unfortunate consequence of the situation that we face.