A council leader in Essex has reassured concerned citizens that “Christmas is not cancelled”, despite the annual lights switch-on event being called off due to budget constraints.
Braintree District Council said it would not go ahead with the event this year due to limitations imposed by the cost of living crisis, Essex Live reported.
The council originally shared the news in an online discussion thread in a Facebook group regarding events for Christmas in the town centre.
They wrote: “We recognise this will be a disappointment to some, however the council has taken the decision to prioritise our limited funding on delivering key services to residents.
“Instead, we are looking to promote our small independent businesses in the town with their own events and helping to encourage our residents and tourists to shop local.”
Following backlash from the announcement, Conservative Graham Butland told BBC Essex: “Can I just assure every child in Braintree that Christmas hasn’t been cancelled.”
“I’d like to be able to do lots of things, but local government has to live within its realms and I have no intention of allowing Braintree District Council ending up in the financial problems many others are experiencing at the current time.”
Butland continued to reject accusations that the council cancelled Christmas, and reassured locals that they would go ahead with the installation of lights and tree, as well as arranging the “usual series” of markets.
He added that the Christmas arrangements would cost the council £18,000 this year, down from £25,000 in 2022.
Local business owner Shana Boreham described the decision was “deplorable” and would have a negative impact on every independent trader in the town.
Olivia Washington, who runs a fabric, haberdashery and handmade art shop, also shared her disappointment with the council, exacerbated by a letter from them encouraging businesses to get in the Christmas spirit.
She said: “Why are we having to pick up your slack? But in the same breath, if they needed financial help, why didn’t they ask us for help, because I’m sure all the traders would be willing to pay an extra couple of bob pitch fee for a Christmas event.”