Let there be light spending as councils count cost of Christmas

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SOME OF Yorkshire’s biggest councils have slashed their Christmas lights budget by hundreds of thousands of pounds in the wake of Government funding cuts of recent years, The Yorkshire Post has found.

Requests made under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that Leeds has cut spending on lights and decorations by £258,944 since 2009, while Sheffield’s spend this year is almost half what it was four years ago.

York Council has also dramatically reduced costs, allocating £33,000 this Christmas, compared with the £66,00 spent in 2009. Rotherham’s spend has dropped by £8,000 in the same period.

The reductions have been put down to increased pressure on local authority budgets which have been imposed since the coalition government came into power in 2010.

A spokesman for Leeds Council said: “With budgets continuing to be tight, we are always looking at ways in which to ensure our lights switch-on events and decorations continue to be enjoyed, whilst ensuring the cost to the council is kept as low as possible.

“As part of this work, we work closely with partners to find ways in which to keep our costs down.”

Sheffield is spending £90,000 this year, which includes Sunday’s switch-on celebrations.

Councillor Isobel Bowler, the council’s cabinet member for culture, said: “The number of lights being used has not reduced this year.

“Although we as an authority are facing budget cuts, Christmas has not been cancelled by any means. We have just looked at ways to find savings without affecting the overall experience.

In York, the Christmas display forms a key part of the city’s bid for UNESCO city of media arts status, the results of which are announced on November 30.

Gill Cooper, City Centre and Market Project Manager at City of York Council, said: “Our Christmas lights complement the very well known St Nicholas Fair. We’re not stinting on our markets, and our budget for lights remains at £26,000 for 2014/15. These lights alongside Illuminating York, the Mystery Plays and other initiatives also form part of our bid to gain the status.”

Some of the region’s local authorities have opted not to cut down on cash for festive decorations despite being hit by cuts from central Government. The budget in Barnsley, for instance, has stayed at £40,000 for the past four years and Harrogate Council said its annual allocation has “neither grown nor shrank” from £24,270 in recent years.