Hanley shops to be asked to pay for Christmas lights
TRADERS and businesses are being asked to pay for Hanley's Christmas lights to help cut costs for the cash-strapped city council.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council currently spends about £40,000 installing and powering Christmas lights in the city centre.
But the authority wants to remove the cost by asking businesses to pay for or sponsor the lights as it looks to save £21 million in 2013/14.
Talks over the issue are being held between council officials and city centre traders at a private meeting today.
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The move comes two years after the council stopped funding Christmas lights in Burslem, Tunstall, Stoke, Fenton and Longton to save £84,000-a-year.
Hanley trader Anthony Turner, who runs Terraces Menswear, in Piccadilly, said: "Given the amount of rates we have to pay each year, surely the council can put their hands in their pockets just once a year to help jazz the place up a bit? They want to spend £55 million to build a new civic centre in Hanley, so I'm sure they can afford a few light bulbs."
Scott Minshull, aged 31, who runs The Traditional Barbers, in Piccadilly, said: "The Christmas lights should be paid for in full by the council. We have to pay enough as it is with business rates and rubbish collections, as well as spending a fortune just to park our cars.
"If it came down to it I think businesses would be willing to pay for Christmas lights, but it's the last thing we want."
The council's financial contribution to public events is already under review – including payments of up to £175,000 a year to pay for a Potteries leg of the Tour of Britain cycle race.
Doug Wardle, chairman of the City Centre Partnership traders' group, said: "We are aware of the council's difficulties and are currently considering the issue."
The £40,000 budget for Hanley's lights is separate to the cost of the annual switch-on event, which last year featured Stoke City boss Tony Pulis and Olympian Imran Sherwani. The switch-on event is already part-funded by traders.
Councillor Mark Meredith, cabinet member for economic development, said: "The council is consulting with businesses in the city centre on how Christmas lights are to be funded from 2013 onwards. A meeting will be held between retailers on the City Centre Partnership and representatives from the council to consider various options."