Report for councillors: Consideration of the town fireworks display 2020
Issued to: Town Improvements Committee 18/05/20
Purpose of Report
To consider whether to hold the planned November 2020 Burnham firework display.
Each year, as part of the November carnival weekend, the Council hosts and finances a grand fireworks display. The 2019 display was held on Sunday 10th November.
Donations towards the event costs are sought from town businesses and permission is given to the local Rotary to organise and undertake charitable bucket collections on the night.
For more than 10 years, the fireworks and display have been provided by Skyburst, a long-standing Bristol based fireworks company.
The event itself is organised by the Town Council office, with hands-on support from councillors. Marshalling & stewarding on the night is provided by voluntary groups including the Carnival and Lions, with qualified Chief Marshal Phil New taking a significant lead role. A donation is made to the groups for helping out.
The event regularly attracts a vast number of people (c.3000), gathering in the area of the esplanade.
The event is risk assessed and a revised 2020 assessment will be completed based on improvements from 2019. Clearly if the event goes ahead in 2020, it will require extensive review according to whatever public safety measures are required at that time.
Advice from the Safety Advisory Group
Due to the uncertainty of the changing position with regards social distancing and safety, the SAG are unable at the current time to offer advice on whether or not the event should proceed, only noting that, if the current Government restriction on movement remain in place, or return, the event should not proceed.
Please note that Bridgwater Town Council has confirmed its 2020 carnival squibbing event will not proceed.
Stewards & Chief Marshal
The firework event relies on the carnival club to provide the bulk of the stewards and Chapter 8 trained marshals working on the roads. Phil New, carnival chairman, is extremely helpful in providing the support we need, both on the roads and for crowd control, as well as with the provision of signage & barriers.
The 2020 Carnival is not going ahead in the usual manner. This means that Phil considers he might have a larger number of volunteers available to assist, if required.
If the event proceeds, then in order to address the H&S matters identified in 2019, plus any additional CV19 H&S issues, it will be necessary to hold more extensive planning meetings that we might ordinarily have. This planning should potentially include members of the Safety Advisory Group, key team of staff, councillors and Phil New’s lead members. This would require factoring into an early timeline on a ‘just in case’ basis.
The Firework company have confirmed that they hold good stocks of fireworks, ordered prior to the restrictions, and are currently suggesting that if their clients are unsure whether to proceed, they can book Skyburst as usual with no deposit penalties, so that, if restrictions are fully lifted in November, clients can proceed without risk of losing the date.
If it later transpires that restrictions are in place, and Skyburst are unable to hold the display, they state they will carry over the deposit to 2021.
This Council has requested Skyburst to keep free the allocated date, but has not yet paid any deposit or returned any booking contract for 2020. If the Council decides to continue with the 2020 display, the office will seek an amended contract to reflect the transfer of deposit.
Under the existing contract, the risk will be that the Council makes the booking and pays the deposit and, although the event is permitted to continue, the Council itself takes the decision to cancel, perhaps because it cannot accommodate any additional H&S requirements put in place by the Govt or safety groups. Unless negotiated otherwise, this would be subject to the usual Skyburst cancellation contract terms and we risk losing 50% (£1,400). It is likely, however, that Skyburst would be willing to apply flexibility, if they are able.
If public movement has returned to some level of normality by November, the event might offer a welcome relief to the community.
Conversely, if society or individuals are subject to some levels of austerity, the Council is advised to weigh-up the pros and cons of the £9k+ spend in terms of benefits to the community, considering this against any potential competing projects where the money might otherwise be used post COVID 19.
Total value of business donation to the 2019 event was £1,350. In light of the CV19 impact on local business, the Council should keep in mind that the 2020 contribution might be reduced.
There are no traders’ licenses issued for use at the event. Despite this, uninvited roaming tradespeople sell toys and battery operated merchandise from carts pushed up and down the street. Although the spectacle of the bright and colourful products for sale can be said to add an air of excitement to the event, the sale is not lawful in terms of licensing and the Council has no way of knowing whether the products are checked for compliance with health & safety standards.
It has been suggested that visitors to events are less likely to make a charitable donation to a bucket collection if they have made unplanned or spontaneous spend on treats that catch their eye from traders. In 2019 the Rotary reported a total charitable collection amount of £1633 from the event, which is down on previous years.
Advice from Trading Standards and Licensing will be required on how the matter of itinerant traders might be addressed at future events, and particularly in the event of any additional H&S restrictions.
£9,500 2020 budget total (any funds not used move the EMR)
£7000 Fee for the 2020 display by Skyburst (fee held from 2019)
£495 Road closure signs
£816 Marshalling costs at 2019 rate
£140 First Aid costs
£1100 PA systems
£2,800 standard booking deposit inc within £7000
£2,910 EMR as at Jan 2019 to fund scaffolding, if required
Corporate Pillar 1: Engagement, Visibility and Transparency
1.1 Ensuring that we operate according to legislative and regulatory principles, whilst following ethical standards and best practice
Positive event – Corporate pillar 3: Economic Development and Tourism
3.4 Actively support and encourage local tourism & 3.1 Support and benefit local business & 3.3 Support the promotion of Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge
Possible negative event – Corporate Pillar 5: Clean and Green Environment
5.2 Promote an environmentally friendly culture to reduce waste and increase reuse and recycling within our own operations & 5.3 Continue to support the ‘Litter free Coast’ initiative
It is for the Town Council to take a decision as to whether it will host a firework event in 2020 based on the current social and economic climate, along with any appropriate alternative that might exist to reflect local preference.
If the Council resolves to proceed, it will be necessary to act pessimistically and deliver a more comprehensive risk assessment over a longer time-line and to have in place a well-briefed or trained larger events team available on the night.
Additionally, if the planned event is cancelled close to the date, comprehensive comms plans for well-publicised cancellation should be prepared to avoid large number of people travelling to an event that will not proceed.
Please note: Min ref: 05/20/TIMP, January 2020 resolved to host the firework event in November 2020 and min re: 06/20/TIMP resolved to commission Skyburst to provide the display. Both resolutions can either stand and the event can proceed, or it can be proposed that Standing Orders are set aside to permit the resolution to be revoked and the event to be cancelled.
Report author: Sam Winter, Town Clerk
Report Date: 11th May 2020