Big lights funding hole left to plug

BETWEEN £7,000 and £9,000 will have to be raised by the community before Christmas next year to maintain the town’s Christmas lighting display.

According to figures supplied by Montrose Community Council, that would include the cost of replacement lights for Murray Street as well as meeting the cost of repeating last year’s display in Hume Street, Western Road and the High Street.

In a joint statement, the community councillors said: “We have been advised that Angus Council will at no cost to the Montrose community provide the existing coverage of Christmas lights from outside the Ballhouse north down the High Street to Ladbrokes and also the features attached to the street lamps in Hume Street.

“Should the community wish to add the two features in Western Road and the string of festoon outside Highland Scene then the sum of £4,420 per annum would need to be raised. This sum quoted is for erection, dismantling, maintenance and future replacement of the two features and one festoon.

“With regard to the lighting in Murray Street, we have been advised of the need to start replacing the existing festoons/features from next year. Prices will vary from £300 to £2,000 per festoon/feature and does not include the £2,755 cost to erect and dismantle them. As this is outside the boundary, this cost would have to be funded again by the community.

“Angus Council have advised funding would need to be found year on year, and with the need to start replacing the Murray Street lights next year, somewhere in the region of between £7,000 and £9,000 would need to be raised for Christmas 2012 should it be decided to repeat last year’s display in Murray Street, Hume Street, Western Road and the High Street.”

The community council has raised money for the lights over several years to supplement the budget set by Angus Council. The Christmas lighting budget for 2010/11 was set at £132,000 with the option for communities to access common good funding as well as carry on their own fund-raising activities.

Montrose was allocated £13,255 for the financial year which included the lighting on the High Street between Swapp’s Close and Hume Street.

The community councillors have pointed out that their Christmas light fund currently stands at £5,949.77, with only £1566.59 being raised over the last year.

The statement continued: “The outstanding invoice due to Angus Council for Christmas is £2,755, half of which has been paid by Montrose Common Good Fund leaving a balance of £1,377. Should it be decided to repeat last year’s display this year, we have been advised it will cost £7,175. Providing Montrose Common Good Fund continues to match funds, the community would then pay half of this, £3,587.50. This still has to be agreed by Angus Council.

“If the above option is agreed then a total of £4,964.50, including the £1,377 still due from Christmas 2010, would need to be paid from the community council’s Christmas light fund leaving a balance of £685.27.”

This week community council chairman Peter Davies said there has been no further progress on finding a group to take over fund-raising for the lights.

A public meeting organised by former treasurer John Dempster was cancelled after a row with Mr Davies who accused him of “acting without authority”, prompting Mr Dempster’s resignation.

Mr Davies said that the community councillors are maintaining their stance, after receiving advice, that any such group should be part of a recognised organisation such as the community council or Montrose Together in order to take advantage of match funding from Angus Council.

He said: “There’s nothing happening at the moment, but this fund-raising group has to be affiliated because they won’t get common good money unless they are.

“The next step will be as soon as we decide what’s happening we’ll then decide which way we’re going. The council wants a long-term commitment but there’s no telling whether the next community council will stick to it.

“This isn’t particular to us, there are other areas with lights that are having the same problem.”