By Richard Spereall, local democracy reporter
Leeds City Council has been accused of being “mean-spirited” over its plan to axe publicly funded Bonfire Night celebrations in the city – including Tyler popular event in Bramley Park.
The council revealed before Christmas that it intends to cancel its annual firework displays permanently to save money, having called off events shortly before Guy Fawkes Night in November 2022.
Liberal Democrat councillor Sandy Lay said the move risked “sucking the life and joy” out of Leeds, as the city embarks on its highly-anticipated Year of Culture in 2023.
A senior member of the Labour administration said it was “the government that’s being mean-spirited”, for failing to adequately fund local authorities.
But speaking at a scrutiny meeting at Civic Hall on Thursday, Councillor Lay, who represents Otley and Yeadon, asked: “Can we not raise the money some other way?
“It seems we’re sucking the life and joy out of the city, particularly in those communties that get the firework displays, because I recognise they’re not everywhere across the city.
“It just seems mean-spirited, particularly in the year of Leeds 2023 when we’re supposed to be promoting arts and entertainment.”
In response, Councillor Salma Arif, the administration’s executive member for public health, said: “I was somebody who was born and raised in Harehills and I went along to Roundhay Park with my family (for the fireworks every year).
“It was not an easy decision to take to get rid of Bonfire Night, because I know what it means to the local community.
“Unfortunately we’re in a position where we have to make this decision because of the budget pressures. It’s the government that’s being mean-spirited in funding the council, that’s where I think the blame lies.”
Councillor Arif said the decision to axe Bonfire Night displays had been “last-minute” in 2022, because the council had been waiting to see if it could still afford them.
But she added that the advance notice of the cancellations this year would give the council more time to work with community groups and potentially help them stage their own displays.