Christmas lights events scrapped by council due to ‘challenging financial situation’

Christmas lights switch-on events have been scrapped by a Kent council this year in a bid to plug its budget gap.

Cash-strapped Medway Council has made a “sad and difficult” decision to cancel the annual festivities to save £75,000 and keep essential services running.

Council leader councillor Vince Maple said budget forecasting has found a potential overspend by the local authority of £75 million for the financial year.

Mr Maple said: “Unfortunately due to the challenging financial situation the council is in, we have had to make the sad and difficult decision to not have Christmas lights across Medway this year…

“I know how disappointing this will be for many families, residents and businesses, including myself who enjoyed attending the event with my family, but the reality of the situation is that we unfortunately have no choice but to make these tough decisions.”

The council boss added that Medway Council is one of the “lowest funded unitary authorities in the country per head of population”, with its revenue support grant cut by 91% since 2010.

Mr Maple continued: “Consequently, our budget forecasting has identified a potential overspend of £17 million for this financial year.

“This decision alone will save the council £75,000 and, whilst I appreciate there is still a long way to go to reduce the budget gap, I will continue to lobby central government to ensure Medway receives a fair amount of funding.”

Despite the cancellation of key events in the festive calendar, local ward councillors are still able to fund a Christmas tree in each town, as well as a Christmas parade taking place in Chatham on November 18, the council boss continued.

Character meet and greets will go ahead in Gillingham, Strood and Rainham libraries for young people, while Rochester Christmas market will be open to shoppers for three weekends.

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