Hanley needs festive lights
W E all know that Stoke-on-Trent City Council is facing some difficult decisions as it constantly strives to find new ways of saving money. Having found savings of £50 million in the last two years, the authority now has the task of coming up with another £21 million in the financial year from April. How it has achieved the cutbacks to date has been comprehensively chronicled by The Sentinel on an almost daily basis. The council has had to cut huge sums from its budgets, so, as a consequence, hundreds of jobs have been lost and key services slashed. Against that financial backdrop, then £40,000 is, it could be argued, a drop in the ocean. That is how much it costs the council to light up Hanley at Christmas and what the authority now wants traders to pay to make sure the decorations go up for this year's festive period.
Q uite what happens if the traders fail to come up with the cash is unclear but the prospect of Hanley not having any lights this Christmas is one that is just too ridiculous to contemplate. And the fact that the 13th biggest city in the country is having this discussion in the first place just sends out completely the wrong message. Particularly when the authority is spending £55million-plus to relocate into the city centre and is keen to develop what Hanley has to offer both during the day and night. There is a real contradiction between that costly vision on the one hand and not being prepared to spend £40,000 on Christmas lights on the other. We need a vibrant city centre which residents can be proud of and which has the kind of appeal to bring in people from further afield. To that end it is important that the Christmas celebrations in Hanley rival those of cities nearby. Maybe through negotiation traders would be happy to make a contribution but ultimately, on this one, the buck has to stop with the council.