WEST Cumbria’s centuries-old Crab Fair festival received an 11th-hour emergency bailout from the county council, it has emerged.

The authority stepped in at the last minute to foot the £1,000 publicity costs for the Egremont fair’s temporary Traffic Regulation Order to protect the public, which is required by law to be advertised.

The cash was taken from the authority’s general provision after it emerged that the type of closure in place for the event between September 20 and 21 was not the correct one.

Leading councillor David Southward blasted the organising committee for failing to get the correct order in place.

Speaking at a meeting of the local committee for Copeland, the cabinet member for economic development and property, said: “It annoys me intensely that, after 750 years, the committee can’t arrange these affairs more expeditiously. Yes, it is quite a lot of money, but then you see the crowds that turn up.

“I am not saying that they should pay, but it seems very hand-to-mouth.”

Dan Shutt, speaking on behalf of the Egremont Crab Fair Committee, thanked the county council for their one-off grant.

He said: “Finding out that we must apply for a different form of closure at a cost of £1,000 and so close to our event came as a shock for organisers and volunteers.

“We put on a fantastic weekend of traditional and modern entertainment for our community, most of which is free, and we do this on very strict budgets. That’s how we make it work.”

“The Crab Fair is a 752-year old chartered fair and David is right in saying that the event attracts huge numbers of people.

“The reason for this could be the fact that most of the events are free for families of our community to enjoy.

“We apologise if we have annoyed any councillor by wanting to safeguard the future of the event for our community.”

Councillor Chris Whiteside also thanked the grants panel for agreeing at “very short notice” to pick up the cost but described it as “one-off emergency decision”.

He also said he would like us to make sure that the county council avoids “getting into that situation in the future”.

He revealed that the need for the Traffic Regulation Order for the Crab Fair emerged following a legal challenge to a similar event held elsewhere in the county. Mr Whiteside said the council had agreed that they did not wish to jeopardise this very long-serving community event by charging £1,000.

But he sought assurances that a less expensive way of organising the TRO could be found, so the council is not “forced into a position of trying to do something on an emergency basis”.