Plans to tackle cuts to Christmas lights

Bonnyrigg Christmas lights 2016.
Bonnyrigg Christmas lights 2016.

Gorebridge Community Council has discussed what it can do to alleviate the planned council cuts for Christmas lights.

It currently costs Midlothian Council £60,000 for Christmas lights across the county. The council’s budget for the forthcoming financial year calls for a ‘review’ into this.

Speaking at her group’s meeting last week, Gorebridge Community Council secretary Cath McGill said she would like to know how much it costs for the lights in Gorebridge and how it could take over the lights from the council if ‘review’ means cut.

She said: “I’m thinking ahead, as Christmas is going to come around quicker than you think and so we need to act now to ensure we have lights up this year. If there is no budget I would like to look at ways to find this.”

Further discussion on the lights raised issues such as potential electricity and insurance costs.

The news also sparked anger in Bonnyrigg, which has the largest Christmas lights display in Midlothian.

Speaking at last week’s Bonnyrigg Community Council meeting, Labour group leader Councillor Derek Milligan questioned the reported £60,000 this cut will save the council, claiming it cost £31,000 the previous year.

At the same meeting Green councillor Ian Baxter revealed he had received abuse on social media for voting for the budget. He said: “I don’t take kindly to it. That’s not why I got into politics.”

He also pointed to other areas where local businesses sponsor their displays, including Dunbar. Adding that he would rather the council cut the lights than services for vulnerable people.

A spokesman for Midlothian Council said: “£60,000 a year is the total cost to the council of providing, erecting and dismantling Christmas lights across Midlothian. At its meeting on 20 December 2016, the council undertook to review this budget with the intention of achieving financial savings from 2017/18 onwards. This means that there will either have to be greater community involvement in erecting, maintaining and dismantling lights or, alternatively, local communities will need to find the funding to allow the council to continue to provide this service. A wide range of options will be considered over the summer months to achieve the savings.”

He added that insurance costs would need to be included in any new funding arrangements but electricity costs would not be added, as these were not significant.