Question mark remains over town’s Christmas lights

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MONTROSE’S Christmas lights display is secure for this year although a question mark still hangs over the extent of the following year, Montrose Community Council chairman Peter Davies has said.

But efforts to discuss the matter openly at a recent public meeting organised by the community council were hampered when no-one turned up.

Community councillors, who have relinquished fund-raising for the lights’ replacement and maintenance costs, had hoped to form a group specifically for the purpose although at a previous community council meeting Mr Davies said that any group formed would have to be affiliated to Montrose Together as a long-term commitment to fund-raising had to be given.

He said the community council could not be expected to do that due to possible changes in membership and chairmanship.

If the same level of lighting is to be maintained, between £7,000 and £9,000 will have to be raised before next Christmas.

The bill for this year’s display and the balance outstanding from last year’s amounts to £9,928 and three festoons and three lighting features erected in Murray Street will have to be replaced, as they are nearing the end of their lifespan, at a total cost of £6,900.

Money raised for the lights on an annual basis is match-funded with money from the town’s Common Good Fund and, assuming local councillors agree to its use in future years, the cost every year from fund-raising would be £3,587.50. If match-funding is not agreed, supporters would have to raise the full £7,175 plus the replacement costs for the Murray Street features.

The ‘Montrose’ feature attached to the south side of the Town House will also need to be replaced at a cost of around £3,000.

Angus Council will now only meet the costs of installing lighting in the High Street and on the Christmas tree at the town house. The move followed the introduction last year of a new funding system for the county’s festive lighting displays.

The authority was set to spend around £130,000 last year on providing displays but, taking into account cash shortages and deteriorating illuminations, councillors agreed last summer to invest a quarter of each burgh’s annual lighting budget in the renewal of features past their best.

The impact of the new scheme and a reduced budget to take account of a near £20,000 overspend in 2009 was a 35 per cent drop in burgh spending for 2010.

This week Mr Davies said that Montrose is facing the same fund-raising difficulties as other Angus burghs.

He said: “We’ve had one of the bills in to pay for last year’s lights, and that’s taken care of.

“No-one turned up for the public meeting so nothing could be discussed, but because we know fund-raising will be difficult we’ve gone back to Angus Council to see if we can cover next year’s lighting plan by shuffling things round a bit. I can’t say much more on that as it’s still under discussion.

“I understand all the community councils have stopped fund-raising, apart from two, because they can’t raise the money needed and all the burghs will be having the same problem.

“Everything’s all right for this year but after that I’m not sure, because we’re still negotiating. At least we’ll have time to decide what’s going to happen.”