CHRISTMAS LIGHTS and decorations have fallen victim to increased cutbacks across Yorkshire’s biggest cities.
Spending on the festive season has plummeted to a fraction of what it was five years ago in many local authorities, according to figures obtained from Freedom of Information Act request.
Evidence suggests that some councils are placing an increased reliance on the local business community to help foot the bill for extravagant displays as funding from central government continues to shrink, while energy efficiency measures also help to keep costs down.
Sheffield has reduced its budget to £48,033, less than 30 per cent of the £172,900 it used to splash out on celebrations in the city centre back in 2009. In outside shopping districts and communities, residents and retailers have to raise the funds for lighting and decorations themselves.
Meanwhile in Leeds, the council has slashed spending on Christmas lights in 42 different locations and the annual switch-on from £663,834 in 2009 to £467,777 this year. The bulk of the saving is down to the self-funding of ceremonies outside of the city centre.
“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,” a Leeds Council spokesman told The Yorkshire Post.
“As part of this work, we work closely with partners to find ways in which to keep our costs down. This includes continually assess our own infrastructure to ensure they remain in good, working condition and through the introduction of energy efficient LED lights that have resulted in significant electricity savings.”
In York, the council now spends just £38,000, compared with more than double the sum at £66,000 five years ago. Instead, the city’s destination management organisation Make it York, a partnership body, foots the vast proportion of the bill.
A spokeswoman for Make it York told The Yorkshire Post: “This year Make It York has spent £38,000 on the city’s Christmas lights and added new lighting on Jubbergate – the street which leads into the Shambles Market.
“York’s businesses this month voted for a York Business Improvement District (BID) and one of the priorities for the York BID will be to improve York’s Christmas Lights still further. It is one of the priorities for the BID.”
While some parts of Yorkshire have made dramatic cutbacks, others have managed to maintain budgets. Bradford, for instance, has stuck to the same budget of £151,000 since 2005. A council spokesman the cost in part covers refurbishing and testing lights from other religious celebrations including the Islamic festival Eid, Vaisakhi on the Skih calendar and the Hindu Deepwali. Rotherham Council has also maintained a budget of around £44,000 for its annual switch-on and display in the town centre.
Simon Williams, regional chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses in North Yorkshire, said: “Businesses are aware of reducing local authority cut backs. From market towns to cities they are contributing too and in many cases funding the wonderful Christmas displays that make our festive shopping experience. Small businesses especially, as part of the community, have taken the baton in some places raising funds all year for the spectacular displays.”