Plug to be pulled on Peterborough’s Christmas lights switch-on as part of £12.6 million budget cuts

Council chiefs could pull the plug on Peterborough’s Christmas lights switch-on as they look to balance the budget.

By Paul Grinnell
Friday, 21st January 2022, 3:31 pm
Christmas lights switch on in the City Centre. EMN-211120-004329009
Christmas lights switch on in the City Centre. EMN-211120-004329009

Axing the festive lights along with other city centre treats such as pop-up markets could save £69,000 for Peterborough City Council as it seeks to bridge a £27 million funding gap.

With the council under pressure from the Government to balance its budget, council leaders are increasingly looking to finding new ways to deliver some services as they look to reduce spending by £12.6 million.

Council leader Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald says the emphasis is on providing its statutory services and developing new delivery methods that generate an income for the council.

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In its budget proposals for the next financial year, the council states: “Whilst events such as the Christmas lights switch-on and pop-up markets are extremely popular, they are not statutory services that the council has a duty to provide.

“The council does though remain fully committed to helping the city centre develop and grow and it is our intention to look for opportunities to continue these events through generating suitable sponsorship.”

In addition the council is looking to make an income of £30,000 from selling more street licences to traders based in the city centre.

Cllr Fitzgerald said that talks were in progress with the new Business Improvement District, that launches on April 1 and which is funded by city centre businesses, about it organising future events in the city centre.

He said: “We are trying to protect all those things that are nice things to do but for which we can no longer pay.

Culture is a big drain on our budget - it is a nice thing to have but it is not statutory.

However, we have not given up this lightly.

“But we need to be looking at attracting corporate and private funders.

“For instance, talks about running the Key Theatre had been going on since June as we knew we needed a long term solution - but why would be the council be in the business of running theatres?

“So with events such as Diwali, the heritage festival and so on, and we are working on plans to try and bring back the Great Eastern Run, but we need to find different ways of doing these things.

He added: “I don’t want Peterborough to be a cultural desert but I have to be realistic and when making difficult choices, what’s more important, putting on a festival and those other things or keeping the social care budget topped up?”