Cost of Christmas lights for Barkingside, Hainault branded ‘insane’

There may still be 150 days to go until Christmas, but festive cheer was hard to find as councillors laid in to the “insane” cost of lights supposed to bring a bit of a spark to the borough.

They were asked to shell out more than �15,000 for a Christmas tree and lights in Manford Way, Hainault and lighting columns in High Street, Barkingside.

But councillors sitting on area committee three, held on Wednesday in Hainault Forest Community Hall, Manford Way, had little appetite to dip into their pockets.

“I’m bah humbug, Scrooge,” said Conservative Cllr Ann Candy. “But it’s not our money to spend on strings of lights, it’s residents’ money.

“It seems to me to be a terrific waste of money.

“The cost is just insane.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Conservative Cllr Nick Hayes who told those gathered: “I’m a bit torn on this.

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“The cost is huge.

“We’ve got to think what we’d do with the �16-20,000 if we don’t go down this route. Will the money be better spent?”

The committee was considering its spend on Christmas lights two months early to prevent the “panic” of previous decisions.

Town centres manager Bev Stratton, who presented the two bids for funding, told councillors the quotes included insurance.

Barkingside’s funding application was for �9,568, while Hainault’s was for �9,736, both about �1,500 less than the overall quoted cost of the Christmas decorations.

But despite the festive gloom, Hainault ward councillors urged their colleagues to agree to fund the Manford way tree and lights.

Conservative Cllr David Poole said: “In these austere times when there’s doom and gloom, we should support our businesses and make the place as bright and colourful as possible.”

Members agreed in a split vote (five for, three against) to fund lights but cap them to the 2010 costings.

Ward councillors will now consult with the area committee’s chairman and vice chairman to come to a deal.