Plug pulled on Christmas lights

Christmas in Exmouth will be plunged into darkness this year, after the town council said it would stop funding the town’s Christmas lights.

The council has blamed town centre traders for the decision, saying their failure to help pay for the lights has left them with no option.

The lights cost �10,000 a year to run - and the council is supposed to share the outlay with local businesses.

However, in recent years, traders’ contributions have slumped, forcing the council to make up the difference.

Now, after the failure of the latest campaign to encourage more traders to take part, the council says it has no choice but to pull the plug.

Councillors have blasted traders for their apathy, with Councillor Bill Nash calling for them to be named and shamed.

He said: “I would like to name and shame particularly the big high street names and the pubs in town who benefit from having the town dressed for the Christmas festivities, but have not been contributing.”

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Councillor Pauline Stott, of the council’s Christmas lights working party, said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly. Every year, for the last three years, we have threatened to do away with the lights. It’s come to the point where we’ve got to make a stand.”

The chairman of the Exmouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Ian Macqueen, said there was little appetite for the lights from traders.

He said: “Apathy on behalf of traders to contribute is something that’s been going on for two or three years.

“I would support the council’s action because, if they pay for all the lights, the council tax payer is footing the bill.”

However, Jacqui Heywood, of Franklins, said that businesses were not to blame - and that her business had not been asked to contribute.

She said: “We have not been formally approached this year for money and, if we haven’t been asked, how are we supposed to respond?

“I find it absolutely ludicrous that a councillor wants to name and shame us when we’ve not even been asked.

“All I can see this councillor doing is ostracising businesses when what we need is for the council to come to us and discuss it like adults.”

The council says it will continue to fund the Christmas tree and lights in the Strand Gardens, and, if businesses were to have a change of heart and come up with the money by mid-September, then the lights could still be saved.