Popular bonfire and firework display axed over budget cuts

End of the road for council-run Thornes Park plot night celebration. Picture by Allan McKenzie

End of the road for council-run Thornes Park plot night celebration. Picture by Allan McKenzie

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A bonfire and firework display which has been at the heart of the city for more than a decade will be scrapped.

Cash-strapped Wakefield Council announced this week that it can no longer afford to hold the Thornes Park event, as it battles to make savings.

The bonfire is one of the biggest in the district and has attracted thousands of people every year.

But the council said it has been forced to stop the free event, which would have cost £35,000 to hold this November, due to financial strain and rising costs.

Coun Les Shaw, cabinet member for leisure, culture and sport, said: “We understand that some people will be disappointed but the financial challenges we are facing mean that we can no longer continue to provide this event.

“As part of our budget setting process we listen to what residents and businesses tell us they value the most, and we are working extremely hard to ensure we continue to provide these services.

“However, the harsh reality is that, in order for us to do this, there are some things the council has to stop providing.”

The council faces making £27m of savings this financial year, on top of the £119m which has already been cut from its budget since 2011.

It said a review of its events programme identified the bonfire and firework display as having the highest cost per visitor, whilst contributing the least back into the local economy.

Earlier this year, it sought to find an organisation willing to take over the running of the event.

But it was unable to do so.

Coun Shaw said: “We are always happy to talk groups or businesses who may be interested in hosting this type of event themselves in the future, and will try to offer any support we can.”

The display was cancelled last year over safety concerns, after just four fireworks were set off.

The company employed to carry out the show said conditions were unsafe due to wind gusts. The council said the company advised at the time that the fireworks could be used at a later date.

But it says it has since been informed that this is not possible due to safety issues with the product.

And it is now considering options to seek a refund for the £4,500 firework costs.

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