Christmas cost more for hard-up council

Carol singers get into the Christmas spirit as festive lights are switched on.
Carol singers get into the Christmas spirit as festive lights are switched on.

North Lanarkshire Council’s spending on Christmas has gone up sharply this year despite the authority cutting back on vital services.

The authority will fork out more than £255,000 on the likes of festive lights, decorations and events - up 45 per cent on 2015.

The increase has been questioned by campaign group Taxpayer Scotland whose director Eben Wilson said: “People like to see a bright, colourful high street at this time of year, but they also want basic services maintained week in, week out.

“We would like to see councils attempt to raise some private funds to help brighten our streets at Christmas. It’s not fair when money is so tight that councils assume local taxpayers will fund everything.”

Earlier this year North Lanarkshire Council announced it was cutting 287 jobs as part of a £19.5 million savings programme.

Budget cuts also led to libraries and other buildings being closed, including Mossend Senior Citizens’ Centre.

Meanwhile, a weekly £5 charge was brought in for personal alarms used by vulnerable householders. More cuts to services are expected when the 2017/18 budget is announced in February.

However, the council defended its spending on Christmas decorations.

A spokesman said: “Our costs for Christmas lights and trees vary from year to year. This is because we replace old, inefficient lights with new LED displays on a rolling basis.

“These new lights are much more energy efficient and last for much longer with little maintenance, and so actually save money over their lifetime compared with older lights.

“Christmas lights make a valuable contribution to our communities and make our town centres more welcoming, meaning increased footfall in shops and more money flowing to the local economy.”

Caption: Getting into the Christmas spirit during the lights switch-on in Bellshill.