Angus burghs may lose their Christmas lights if immediate action is not taken, a local councillor has warned.
Festive bulbs and decorations are paid for by Angus Council’s “other services” budget, which costs £132,000 across the seven burghs every year.
The local authority is now looking for community groups to shoulder up to £75,000 of that cost, following proposals to pursue “sustainable” lighting budgets but Arbroath councillor David Fairweather believes it is unlikely that any local groups have the financial clout to share the burden.
“By 2017/18, if there are no arrangements in place, burghs like Arbroath may have no lights to put up,” he said.
“I don’t know of many community groups who would be able to pay to put them up and pay the insurance.”
Mr Fairweather said he is “frustrated” that lights put up two years ago, at a cost to the public purse of £50,000, were mothballed after only one airing and he has called on the council to bring forward a meeting that will guarantee festive displays after the next two years.
The council’s property services chief said a meeting was due to be held over provision for future years, noting “budget pressures that are forecast”.
It is understood the report is yet to go before a committee, however.
Ian Cochrane said: “The proposal was to work with communities to enable communities to take over some of the aspects of the display, including putting up, taking down, replacements, maintenance etc, whilst the council would undertake the testing of building fixtures and electricity costs.
“This would allow the communities to use volunteers, in-kind assistance and potential sponsorship.”
Mr Fairweather added: “I think it’s a ridiculous situation we’ve got into and I would like the council to bring a report as soon as possible.”
Some burghs have supplemented council spending with their common good funds and Arbroath undertook an extensive renewal with a new design.
The town’s common good fund paid for an extension of the display to the West Port but that was funded until last year and the lighting was not installed.
Mr Cochrane said: “There is currently no use of common good funds for the Arbroath displays but lighting renewals cannot be fully funded from the other services budget and this is anticipated to impact on future displays from next year.”
He said the review has looked at a phased approach, which will be in place by 2017/18.
“This review has progressed with some preliminary discussions with communities with a view to piloting next year, subject to member approvals,” he commented in a letter to Mr Fairweather.
“Arbroath is not in the pilot and the only discussion to date has been with the retailers associations.”