Stevenage Christmas lights switch-on event ‘in jeopardy’ due to council cuts

The crowd during this year's Christmas lights switch-on event in Stevenage

The crowd during this year's Christmas lights switch-on event in Stevenage - Credit: Archant

The future of a town’s Christmas lights switch-on event “may be in jeopardy” due to planned cuts at a council.

The Comet revealed last week that Stevenage Borough Council is planning to make £3 million in cutbacks to its services from April next year, with the Stevenage Town Centre Management Company among those expected to be affected.

The private company is due to have half of its council funding – £10,000 – removed.

Stevenage town centre manager Tracey Parry said: “The Stevenage Town Centre Management Company is aware that all local authorities are under pressure to make cuts but we were extremely disappointed to learn that Stevenage Borough Council proposes to cut 50% of the grant it currently pays to the town centre company.

“To put things in to context, it costs £10,000 to put on the Christmas lights switch-on for the council every year. The cost of staging, fireworks and all the health and safety aspects that are required for an event of this size has grown exponentially over the years and, despite the success and popularity of this event, it may be in jeopardy in the future.

“Finding alternative sources of income in order to continue promoting the town centre in the future will be challenging but the Stevenage Town Centre Management Company has consistently delivered a successful town centre management operation for the last 14 years and we will continue to work closely with our commercial partners, finding even more innovative ways to promote the town.

“Although this reduction in funding will have a huge impact on the work we do, it does mean that we will be less reliant on the public purse. We currently levy in more than £100,000 in added value from the private sector, as well as a significant financial contribution from all our partners, and we are confident we can continue to promote Stevenage town centre to ensure it thrives and remains a commercially viable and vibrant shopping destination.”

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A spokesman for the council said: “Government cuts to public funding are having a big impact on local councils and in Stevenage our funding will have been cut by around 52% by 2016 and we have had to make savings of £9.4m since 2007/08.

“We have to reduce the support we provide to external organisations, like the Stevenage Town Centre Management Company. This means that they may have to find alternative sources of income. The council pays for the Christmas lights, Christmas trees and their installation. The Town Centre Management Company has other sources of funding and sponsorship and therefore we don’t expect this proposal to jeopardise this type of event. We are interested to hear our residents’ views on all our savings proposals.”