St Ives Town councillors agreed an £8,000 grant for the town’s Christmas lights, despite concerns about the quality of the display.
Applications for financial assistance were approved en bloc when councillors met at a full council meeting, last Wednesday (December 14), granting funds including £2,400 to St Ives in Bloom and £7,650 to Festival Events St Ives.
Other accepted proposals were £6,000 for the St Ives Carnival and Music Festival, and £4,150 for St Ives Town Team.
However, while another £8,000 was granted for the town’s Christmas lights committee to put up its annual display, concerns were raised over whether the money was being well spent.
“I do not think St Ives currently has a really good lights display and, as councillors, we get lots of comments to that effect,” Councillor Ian Dobson told the chamber.
“There is an obsession by the Christmas lights committee with the switch-on day, whereas I think the council and majority of us are more interested in the lights in a four or five week period before Christmas to attract residents and visitors into the town.”
The grant, which is due to become available in April next year, will help fund the installation, maintenance, removal and storage of the lights, as well as purchasing and hiring new ones.
Cllr Dobson added: “I believe we are involved in a process of attrition here [with the commit-tee] and what must be merged with this attrition is a much-improved display in four or five weeks before Christmas, enjoyed by all and attracting many visitors to the town.
“Giving £8,000 is not going to help to achieve that and I think we should retain the money and bring forward in the new year some concrete plans about how to take greater control on the council and see the display is improved immeasurably.”
In response, Councillor Ryan Fuller, who sits on the Christmas lights committee, told the chamber that while he agreed St Ives “does not have a very good
display”, much more money would be needed to rival other towns in the region.
“If we want to emulate Huntingdon and give £20,000 to £30,000 towards its lights then we would have Cllr Dobson’s very good display,” he said.
He added that standing costs in smaller communities were “vastly different” to St Ives.
“To stand still in St Ives you need to spend £5,000 - to never improve – and then you’ve got the renewals, repairs and wires and all the other matters that come into it. I think there’s a misconception that £8,000 is just for the new lights that you see, but there’s much more to it than that,” he added.
The proposal to grant the monies to each of the community groups was carried, with 12 in support and four against.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Could more be done to improve St Ives’ Christmas lights? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.