Anger as Christmas bill for lights soars

Bryn Christmas tree lights
Bryn Christmas tree lights

A ROW is blazing over the “sky high” cost of Bryn’s Christmas lights.

The three ward members are angry that this year’s bill which will be taken from their Brighter Borough ward allowance has rocketed up by more than £700.

Under a central procurement rule, the councillors say that they have to buy the lights via the town hall.

But leader of the opposition Coun Gary Wilkes is now questioning whether they are getting value for money.

He claimed that because officers know that the money to pay for the lights is already secured via their £5,000 a year individual Brighter Borough allowance, there isn’t enough pressure to hunt out a bargain sparkling show for the township.

Independent Coun Wilkes claimed that all three ward councillors across the party political boundaries are shocked by how much the price of their community lights have gone up since 2011.

He said: “We are not being Scrooge. We are having a grumble but I think we are well within our rights.

“We were told that we needed to new lights because the lights we had were too old and effectively life expired, not fit for purpose and the council would supply new LED lights that will last longer and will use less power.

“But then when we see the bill for them we find out that they have gone up by over £700. To say that we are disappointed at what we are being charged is an understatement.

“It seems to me that our hands are tied because we are signed up to a long term purchasing process through the council. We know we have to have them up no matter what but to us it seems we are being put in fait accomplis position by the council who can spend what they like because they know that the ward members are committed to covering the costs from our Brighter Borough allowance.

“I think too many officers are looking at the Brighter Borough as a bottomless pit that they can dip into as they feel fit...and it just is not.

“At such a late state in the year we now have no option to go along with it but we will certainly be asking for a value for money review for Bryn for next year, no question.”

Mark Tilley, Head of Infrastructure at the council, said: “Last Christmas, Bryn bought some new festive displays. These were under warranty so maintenance costs weren’t incurred.

“As the displays are no longer under that warranty, maintenance rates have been re-added in line with a five year tender agreement.

“The total cost for the Christmas lighting in Bryn for 2012 is £3970.99 which is an increase of £710.79 on the previous year.

“Wigan Council gives Bryn £1650 towards these costs. The fees pay for testing, maintenance, repair and storage of the displays, energy costs for all column mounted displays and Christmas tree lights, the installation of 16 column-mounted displays on columns and an engineer to attend a switch-on event.”