Row breaks out over funding of Christmas lights in St Ives

Councillor Ryan Fuller

Councillor Ryan Fuller - Credit: Archant

The decision by St Ives Town Council not to award a grant to support this year’s Christmas lights display has been slammed as “politically motivated” by a councillor.

At a meeting held on January 13, the town council decided to use a grant of £8,000 to buy an improved Christmas tree and decorations instead of part-funding the lights display.

The council had received applications for the £8,000 from two separate groups; one from the St Ives Christmas Lights Committee, which has co-ordinated the event in its current format for the past eight years, and a second bid from a new group, St Ives Community Christmas Lights.

But Councillor Ryan Fuller, chairman of St Ives Christmas Lights Committee, was unhappy with the decision and labelled it “questionable”.

He said: “The town council can attempt to portray this decision as a choice between two groups but the existing committee, with varying membership, has been successfully delivering the town’s Christmas lights since 1992.

“A handful of our town councillors have now seen fit to remove all funding for the town’s Christmas lights in 2016 whilst agreeing to spend the £8,000 in budget on a new Christmas tree.

“We have made a commitment that we will work as hard as ever to provide a great display for the town, but the town council’s lack of support for our community and businesses only makes it even harder to provide Christmas lights that St Ives can be proud of.”

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Cllr Fuller claimed that the town council had ‘taken a leaf out of Oliver Cromwell’s book’ by scuppering the committee’s Christmas plans.

But the mayor of St Ives, Councillor Ian Jackson, denied the decision had been politically motivated, and said that the lights committee should seek more funding from other sources.

He said: “The existing Christmas Lights Committee pledged in its application for funding to put on its usual display this year regardless of whether the council gave it an £8,000 grant, or if it decided to support an alternative application from a new community group.

“Members therefore felt duty bound to encourage the committee to continue to seek sponsorship from local businesses, rather than receive £8,000 of taxpayers’ money for the fourth year running.

“This decision gives the council the flexibility to use the retained monies in other ways to light the town centre which include a more impressive Christmas tree and other surrounding features.

“The council acknowledges the efforts of the current committee but feels more can be done to rival the displays of our neighbouring towns, like Chatteris. Their fantastic display is happily funded by the community and businesses alike to reduce the contribution from tax payers.

“Our decision is of course not politically motivated but rather in the best interests of the town, the principle that governs all our decisions.”