Brent Council cancels Christmas and other religious festivals next year

Funding axed from 2012 onwards

Christmas is cancelled and the future of other religious festivals in Brent remain uncertain next year after the council cut its funding.

Money usually earmarked for festive celebrations, including sparkling lights around the borough, have been axed as the council battles to save �100 million over four years.

Other religious celebrations such as the Hindu festival Navratri, the Muslim festival Eid, the Jewish festival Chanukah and the popular St Patrick’s Day Festival, have also had their funding culled as the council say they must treat them all the same.

However, it has promised to continue funding the festivals until March 31 next year.

But speaking at a council meeting on Monday (18) night, Cllr Paul Lorber (Lib Dem), slammed the plans saying religious celebrations were open to all and were designed to improve relations among Brent’s diverse communities.

He also argued that if the borough is cutting religious festivals then it should not celebrate Bonfire Night, given its historical link with the gunpowder plot of 1605 – a failed assignation attempt against the king of England by a group of Catholics which could be seen as a Protestant celebration.

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He said: “I would challenge the description of festivals as religious festivals. They have always been inclusive. Eid is a Muslim celebration to which the whole community is invited. For St Patrick’s Day, the same applies.

“If we are going to take it to the extreme then why are we funding a fireworks display?”

Navratri, one of the most popular Hindu festivals, has been celebrated in the borough for 30 years. Cutting its funding will save the council �67,000.

Mehendra Pattni, spokesman for Hindu Council Brent, said: “We are relieved this year’s funding is to be retained but we fear the festival will not take place next year. It would be impossible to try and raise that kind of money on our own.

“It is a shame Brent Council has stopped a festival which has been celebrated in the borough for 30 years.”

But Cllr Ann John (Labour), leader of the council, said: “We have taken the equality issue extremely seriously. Firework Night is important because of health and safety reasons. An organised display results in fewer accidents in people’s homes. If we didn’t have a government removing so much money from us then we wouldn’t be doing this.”