Exclusive: Christmas cheer in abundance as sponsorship helps Yorkshire councils up spending on festive lights

Town hall bosses have shown they have Christmas cheer in abundance this year, spending almost £1.9m on festive lights and switch-on events this winter - a rise from 2017.

And they are increasingly turning to local businesses, community groups and external sponsorship to ensure Yorkshire’s towns and cities are thoroughly trimmed-up and that the ever present doom of tightening budgets doesn’t turn them into decoration Scrooges.

Figures released to the Yorkshire Post under the Freedom of Information Act showed that authorities across the region were projected to spend £1.87m on Christmas lights and switch-on events this year, up from £1.79m last year, and £1.84m in 2016.

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This year, councils including Leeds, Wakefield, Barnsley, Sheffield, Kirklees and Harrogate all benefited from external sponsorship towards festive displays and events, with £245,812 contributed from outside sources. This was an increase from last year, when £156,531 was contributed to displays.

Christmas lights in Leeds. Picture: Steve Riding

Leeds City Council estimated it would spend £391,361 on its Christmas lights, and £71,584 on its switch-on event on November 8, which featured world champion boxer Josh Warrington, Britain’s Got Talent star Micky P Kerr, X Factor finalist Kevin Davy White plus Cbeebies presenters. In total, £137,650 of the budgeted figure came from sponsors, an increase of 32 per cent from 2017.

A council spokesman said that due to “continued pressures” on budgets, it was always looking at ways to reduce overall costs, including earning internal income by providing lighting displays in areas outside the city “which contributes a significant amount in total to the overall cost” of its Christmas Lights expenditure.

He said: “This sits aside other steps we have taken to reduce our overall costs through efficiency savings.

“All of this work ensures that Leeds City Council can continue to provide Christmas lights and decorations not just in Leeds city centre, but also in many different communities and town and district centres, which is something we are very proud to do.”

In Wakefield, the council estimated it would spend more than £300,000 on lights and decorations, which included a “significant amount” of external sponsorship, totaling £40,000. This year’s figure for decorations is higher than last year’s £223,303 spend after the council invested in new LED lights, which it said would reduce maintenance costs in future and last at least a decade.

Clare Elliott, Service Director for Economic Growth and Skills at Wakefield Council said: “The new lights are extremely vibrant and much more attractive which has led to a greater number of visitors coming into the city centre. This year we had 6,000 people attend the Christmas switch- on event in Wakefield, compared to 4,000 in 2017. This is an increase of 2,000 people on a single day, who through shopping and visiting food and drink outlets, helped to support local businesses.”

Its sponsorship included £19,000 from Wakefield BID and and a cone tree worth £9,000 from ENGIE.

Ms Elliott added: “External sponsorship helps the Council to continue to invest in our district and demonstrates a good example of partnership working and a commitment to the long-term future of Wakefield.”

In Barnsley, XPO Logistics sponsored the council’s Barnsley Bright Nights event, which included the light switch-on, fireworks and projections onto the Town Hall, and a further £15,000 was funded by Arts Council England.

Cabinet Spokesperson for Place, Coun Roy Miller, said: “Barnsley Bright Nights was a brilliant event and one that we’re all proud of.

“We are committed to delivering new and exciting events for the people of Barnsley and the surrounding areas. These events would not be possible without the funding and sponsorship we received.”

Smaller contributions are also making an impact on council coffers. In Harrogate, £4,620 of trees and decorations were provided by the organisers of the Christmas & Gift Show for Harrogate Convention Centre, while the council also works the Harrogate at Christmas Group, parish council and local businesses to fund its lights.

Coun Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said: “It is important that we work with these groups because that helps us achieve the brilliant displays we have across the district. While maintaining council funding for our Christmas lights we always look to others to help us add even more sparkle to what we do.”