Will Christmas light shine in Malmesbury?

MALMESBURY faces the prospect of a Christmas without lights this year after the chamber of commerce revealed it can not afford to chip in towards the cost.

The chamber has paid a donation each year since the town council took over responsibility for the illuminations back in 2004.

Last year it helped to raise money towards a £3,000 new set of LED lights and handed over a £500 towards the annual bill, which is usually around the £2,000 mark.

But now it says there is nothing left in the kitty.

Chamber chairman Alan Woodward explained: “Money has become tight over the past couple of years especially. We employ a secretary part-time and to pay her wages we need every bit of money spare that comes in.

“By the time we have paid our subscription to the Wessex Association and the secretary’s wages there is nothing left.”

He said the late night shopping evening was their main event of the year and a lot of time and effort was put into it.

“We have written to non-member retailers in the high street to ask for support and the response has been feeble.”

Only two businesses, one a major chain, had responded.

But many more had the chance to benefit from the event. “Our members are basically subsidising them,” he said.

As far as the lights themselves were concerned, members did want to see them up but last year’s £500 donation had left the organisation in desperate straits.

The main cost involved is putting up the display and paying for the electricity.

Mayor Andrew Woodcock said: “It would be a dreadful shame when all the surrounding towns, Cirencester, Tetbury and Chippenham have them.”

The council, which was due to discuss the issue as the Standard went to press, is hoping to canvass chamber members and other traders before taking a decision on the future of the lights.

One choice is to pay the full costs itself. But Mr Woodcock said: “If push comes to shove the problem is that we have only got one source of revenue, which basically is the ratepayers.

“We would very much like to put the Christmas lights up but we are cognisant of the fact that at the end of the day it is those ratepayers that will have to foot the bill.”

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