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Lack of cash puts Taunton town centre Christmas lights in the dark
TRADITIONAL lights will not hang over Taunton town centre this Christmas because of a lack of cash.
The popular lights were previously funded by a scheme known as the BID, which has since ended.
Opposition councillors have said the lack of lights would be a “PR disaster”.
Graham Love, Taunton town centre manager, said: “We’ll have the tree at the Market House and six trees in Fore Street with lights – that’s the extent of it.”
Shoppers could boycott Taunton over a decision to put up hardly any Christmas lights, it has been claimed.
The blackout contrasts with Wellington where £10,000 is being spent on lights.
Taunton’s town centre manager said money had dried up after traders ditched a scheme funding a kitty to improve trade.
“This failure of the Conservative group to support traders will likely lead to more shoppers vacating for more cheerful towns.
“I call on the Tory leader to stop playing Scrooge – we need illuminations, not gloom, this Christmas.”
Mark Raisey, merchandise director at Hatchers department store, claimed the council had abdicated its responsibility.
He said: “Taunton Deane and Taunton Town Centre Company have missed a brilliant opportunity to put on a great display of Christmas lights.”
He accused them of “sour grapes” after businesses decided not to renew the Business Improvement District scheme under which firms paid a levy to boost the town.
Andy Sharman, of Somerset West Businesses Against Crime, said: “It’s disappointing. Christmas is vital and if not successful it’ll strain traders.”
Taunton town centre manager Graham Love said there was no money for lights after the demise of the BID scheme.
He said: “There’ll be a limited scheme as there’s no funding.”
Taunton Town Centre Company is staging a street fair on Sunday, November 18.
Council leader Cllr John Williams (Conservative) said other initiatives included the town centre company offering businesses trees, the orchard centre putting up lights and free parking after 3pm on Saturdays, possibly being repeated.
- A WORKING group aimed at finding a solution to the issue was being formed as the County Gazette went to press.
Councillor Kelly Durdan appealed for people or businesses with ideas to contact her at email@example.com