Warning over Christmas lights handover

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Community groups taking ownership of their area’s Christmas lights will be responsible for ensuring their safety, councillors have warned.

Argyll and Bute Council is set to pull the plug on funding for festive lighting across its area as its budget gets tighter.

The council continues to discuss handovers of Christmas lights with other community groups throughout its area.

But at the council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee meeting on Thursday March 7, Councillor John Armour (South Kintyre) sought assurances that all equipment was in good working order.

He said: ‘I had a meeting yesterday on the handover to Christmas lights committees. There is concern over the condition of wall brackets which are used for decorations.

‘I have concerns that there is no report that we know of that all of these fittings have been checked and it is safe to hand over to community organisations.

‘While Christmas lights were up, one decoration fell off a lighting post, narrowly missing somebody walking past and falling right on top of a parked car.

‘Can we get a paper to us indicating that everything we are handing over to the groups is safe and has been checked?’

Jim Smith, the council’s head of economic development, said: ‘When we put equipment up we always check it and have tests done. There will be responsibility on the groups to ensure that things are restored over the winter period.

‘There is always a slight risk in coastal locations that we will end up with some damage to features, so there do need to be checks carried out by the community groups.

‘Our standard practice is that when something is taken down, checks are made to ensure it is in decent condition.

‘What we also do is check with groups who have taken down particular features that these are fit for purpose.

‘There will need to be checks carried out before the next festive season.’

Committee chairman Councillor Roddy McCuish (Oban South and the Isles) added: ‘To make it crystal clear, should there be any defects, it is incumbent on the community groups to address these issues.’

Vice-chair Councillor Ellen Morton (Helensburgh and Lomond South) outlined the work of the Helensburgh Festive Lighting Charitable Trust in making sure the town’s Christmas celebrations go with a swing.

She said: ‘It is not understood in some quarters how much work goes into it. Previously when we have put away the Christmas tree lights in January they are working perfectly, but when they are dug out again in December there are some not working.

‘The group in Helensburgh actually works all year round and only has about two months off during the year. They have three members who are professionally trained and approved, and it is an enormous amount of work they put in.

‘We keep using the phrase ‘tough choices’, but only now can we see them.

‘I think Christmas lights are wonderful in towns and villages but if we are short of money the budget cannot cover everything.’