Traditional switch-on cancelled due to lack of money

MONTROSE’S traditional Christmas lights switch-on has been shelved for this year due to lack of money.

At last week’s Montrose Together meeting chairman Peter Davies said that although the lights would be operational from December 1, there will be no formal ceremony marking the illumination of the town’s Christmas tree.

The decision was taken jointly by Montrose Community Council and local Angus councillors after an examination of the finances available for the lights’ provision and maintenance.

It is the second consecutive year the ceremony, which usually draws large crowds to the Town House, has been cancelled. Heavy snow last year forced Angus Council to abandon the event at which the tree lights are switched on by the town’s Citizen of the Year.

Councillor Mark Salmond said he expected the decision would be criticised by the public, but it was a decision that had to be made after appeals for people to get involved in fund-raising received no response.

He said: “Montrose Community Council put out appeals for people to come forward to discuss Christmas lights and not one single person did so it was a small group which has taken the decision on what it will be this year.

“I expect there will be criticism but we have tried our best to get people to come forward and give their views and they haven’t.”

Mr Davies said the decision had been taken purely on the grounds of available money which, in the past, was raised by the community council with match-funding from the Common Good Fund.

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.

While the council pays for lights to be installed in certain areas of town centres, the lighting plan for Montrose does not include Hume Street or Murray Street and Mr Davies added that this year’s displays have been rearranged to compensate for the loss of those in Murray Street.

He said: “We have had to find £9,000 for this year’s contribution to the Christmas lights and where else are we going to get it in this financial climate? We’ve ensured there will be lights in Murray Street by taking them out of Hume Street so now we’re within budget to have lights down the High Street and into Murray Street.

“Hopefully that will fall within the budget allocated by the council.”

Mr Salmond that the community council has enough money to extend the lights into Murray Street, where there are some small businesses that helped pay for the displays, for the next three years.

He added: “There are so many community groups fund-raising for different projects in town we’re all knocking on the same doors, and businesses just can’t give to everything.”