YORKSHIRE high streets have not lost their sparkle this Christmas despite economic cuts as councils have protected their spending on festive decorations.
Many local authorities have spent the same amount on lights as last year -and in some areas such as Wakefield the budget has even increased.
Last year we revealed how spending on the festive season had plummeted to a fraction of what it was five years ago as councils bore the brunt of cuts.
But this year figures, released after a Freedom of Information request, show festive season funding has been spared.
In Doncaster and Harrogate - which gives match money to groups to boost what they have raised - spending remained broadly the same as it did the year before. Barnsley also expects the cost to again be around £27,000 and Leeds Council is expecting to increase spending a little to £525,969. which includes staffing costs and the costs of all switch-on events.
Wakefield Council spent £138,000 last year, but this year the estimated cost is £213,000 which includes £30,000 sponsorship for new lights over a three-year deal and around £30,000 which to maintain good health and safety standards across the Christmas lights stock.
Sheffield is also expected to spend a little more up to £80,000 from £70,000 while in Bradford the budget for Christmas Lights and decorations has been the same since 2005 – £151,000.
Sarah Pearson, service director for economic growth and housing at Wakefield Council, said: “The Christmas lights in our district are enjoyed by hundreds of residents and visitors and they support our businesses in our city and town centres.
“We needed to invest in a new electrical infrastructure to support the Christmas lights. The majority of the Christmas light features in Pontefract were over 10 years old and unrepairable - so this year we started to replace the lights through a new private sector sponsorship with Haribo to reduce costs in future years. We’ve had great feedback on the lights from residents and businesses.”
Mike Cartwright, of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said it was a difficult task for councils to decide where budgets should be cut.
“They have an obligation to provide some statutory services and things like Christmas lights would be outside that remit,“ he said.
“However, they are also tasked with bringing in more shoppers and footfall into the city centre, especially at this time of year. Having an impressive set of lights definitely adds to the Christmas spirit and so it’s good news that many authorities in Yorkshire have managed to keep a budget for this. It will be welcomed by retailers and other businesses based in lit-up areas.”
A Leeds City Council spokesman said they spent just 70p per person on Christmas lights and with budgets continuing to be tight, they were always looking at how they could ensure their lights display continued to be enjoyed.
“We’ve done this by raising cash making lights for other councils, saving money with low-energy LED bulbs and all our out-of-town displays are now self-funded. Our Christmas lights switch-on brings tens of thousands of people and families together at the heart of the city and despite budget pressures, we’re committed to finding innovative ways to ensure the festive season continues to be a special time for Leeds,” he said.
The FOI request was carried out by www.lightbulbs-direct.com