A GRANT worth £11,000 has been awarded from Neath Port Talbot Council this week, to ensure that the annual Neath Fair held in the town each year will be able to take place.
The historic Neath Fair is currently said to be one of the oldest chartered fairs in Europe, running for hundreds of years and made up of two main events, the fun fair held at Milland Road Car Park, and the street fair in the town centre.
However, with council charges for running the fair said to be rising to around £31,000 this year, organisers at the Showman’s Guild of Great Britain said they would not be able go ahead with the event without financial assistance.
The group applied for funding as part of the council’s miscellaneous grant fund, with a decision to award £11,000 given at a special Policy and Resources meeting on August 29.
Here members heard how the Showman’s Guild of Great Britain and Northern Ireland had struggled with “the soaring costs of renting spaces at the fairgrounds,” which made it difficult for them to operate profitably.
While the recommendation to award the funding was later passed by councillors, allowing the fair to go ahead, the decision was met with heavy scrutiny from members, including Labour leader Rob Jones, who questioned if the guild met the criteria to apply for the fund, and said he feared that by awarding the cash to a private organisation, they could “open the flood-gates” for future applications.
Cllr Carol Clement said she felt uncomfortable and “pushed in to a corner,” when it came to the request of funding so close to the date of the fair, and asked why it had already been advertised by the council before the grant had been awarded, if organisers could have pulled out.
Others also questioned if officers had done their due diligence with the fair’s financial viability in this case, and asked that such requests be brought before the council sooner in future.
In response to the questions at the council scrutiny meeting, officers assured members that the applicants were in line with the criteria for the fund, and clarified that the funding would be awarded by way of a discount on the overall price the guild would be charged for holding the fair.
With the fair now set to go ahead from September 13 to 16, the leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Steve Hunt, said: “I would like to express our delight that we are hosting once more The Great Neath September Fair. As one of the oldest chartered fairs in Europe and a popular annual event with locals and visitors alike it will fill the streets of Neath town centre.”
Elsewhere in the meeting, members decided to approve a further one off grant of £900 to organisers at Tonna carnival to go towards covering the cost of last minute traffic management arrangements that were not factored in to plans for the annual event which took place in June.