Protest about unlit Christmas lights

MONTROSE Community Council chairman Tommy Stewart has expressed his disappointment that once again some sections of the High Street’s Christmas lights had be left unlit due to a fault.

He told the Review: “For years, even before I became a community councillor, I complained that they were always fusing and no one from the local authority bothered to come and repair them.

“In previous years, the installation and maintenance was contracted out. As the contractors were from outwith the area this was cited as the reason they weren’t on hand to repair straight away. As usual though, the excuse is that no one has told them that there are lights out so, that’s why it wasn’t dealt with.

“Three of the festoons have not been working for a week now. The fourth one (nearest to the port) appears to work on a timer between 3.30pm and 7.30 the next morning.”

Mr Stewart continued: “Although Montrose Community Council have played no part in the annual switching-on event, I feel it is still one of our responsibilities to raise issues and concerns we receive from the public. The last Community Council raised thousands of pounds which was match-funded to replace the Montrose Christmas Lights and lots of new lights were purchased. I am aware of several rope light features which are not present this year, notably the one at the top of Hume Street which was newly erected last year, only to be blown down by severe gales which also cancelled the switching-on ceremony.

“I contacted Angus Council’s lighting department early on this year to get an update on the Hume Street feature and was told there was no damage to it. The only damage was to the steel wire that the light features are hooked onto, which would need replaced. That didn’t appear to get done so the light was never erected.”

“Due to Angus Council’s budget which sets out how much money is available for Christmas Light displays in each of the Angus burghs, Montrose had to streamline their display last year and again this year.”

Dealing with the facts and figures, Mr Stewart said: “Angus Council has a budget of around £17,000 per annum for Christmas lights in Montrose, of which their officers recommend 25 per cent is saved for the replacement of lights. So in real terms Montrose has around £13,000 which is used for erection, maintenance and dismantling of the lights. Some people have said that is an excessive amount to pay to get lights put up and I agree. It seems that as soon as it’s a local authority requiring work done there is another zero added to the cost.”

Mr Stewart says Angus Council have fixed areas where lights should be erected. In Montrose’s case, Angus Council’s only obligation is to erect lights in the main part of the High Street from the Ballhouse down to the Port. “Montrose Community Council felt that as many of the small independent shops in Murray Street are the lifeblood of the town, the lights should also be carried on there too. This has been funded for the last two years from Montrose Common Good Fund.”

A spokesperson for Angus Council said: “We ask members of the public to contact the council’s ACCESSLine 08452 777 778 if they notice any lights out. We are currently checking the three features mentioned. The eyebolts for the Hume Street feature failed and require to be renewed but this will not be undertaken for this year’s display.

“The council allocates a budget for each burgh for the erection and running of Christmas lights, including their replacements. The funding is supplemented in some burghs by the provision of Common Good funding.”