Lea Bonfire Night event under threat as money row explodes between parish council and Gainsborough Rotary

A blazing row has broken out between Gainsborough Rotary and Lea Parish Council which could see a popular annual Bonfire Night event go up in smoke.

For many years, hundreds of people have been flocking to Lea Park every November for the Rotary bonfire and firework display.

The event has always relied on an informal arrangement with the council, which manages the park, with the club making a voluntary donation for use of the facilities.

But now the council has moved to formalise it with a £500 fee, a contract and a ban on the bonfire due to safety concerns – which has sparked a reaction from Rotary members.

Gainsborough Rotary Club bonfire night at Lea Park.

A spokesperson for the club said: “The much loved and popular event is now at risk of being cancelled.

"The fact that Lea Parish Council is allowing the club to hold the Guy Fawkes Night whilst demanding £500 for use of Lea Park but without a bonfire is unacceptable.”

They added: “The event is conducted to raise much needed funds for local charities. This is particularly relevant this year when many charities, through the effects of Covid-19 have suffered the loss of their income.

“The only cost recovered from the profits is the fireworks, a small donation to the council, security, and public liability insurance.”

The statement went on to claim that the council already takes enough money from local residents via Council Tax, estimated at £21,500 this year, adding: “It is also noted that the parish council levy within the Council Tax has increased 53 per cent since 2010.”

However, council clerk Graham Barber said those figures were inaccurate, and added that tax rises in fact mean the council has a responsibility to maximise rental income to spread the financial burden.

He added: “We are disappointed at the Rotary statement, especially as they have told us they were calling the event off due to COVID-19.

“Last year’s donation from the event was much smaller than previous years, which affected our budget, and we had to push for it. The display is good for the village, but there are costs for the buildings, utilities and repairs to the park each year.

"As a responsible landlord we also feel the bonfire poses too great a risk to visitors and the park’s surroundings.”