'We’re no Scrooge!' says council in row over Christmas lights
“We’re no Scrooge!” - that’s the message from council chiefs to communities across Kirklees after the authority was criticised for imposing tough rules on groups that want to put up festive lighting displays at Christmas.
The council was accused of “cancelling Christmas”.
But a senior figure has said a 37-page policy document laying out regulations around consent and standards has been compiled to ensure festive lighting across the borough is safe.
The Festive Lighting Manual lays out robust rules for anyone intending to decorate town centres – and even requires them to provide £10m public liability insurance cover to indemnify the council against third-party claims for loss, injury or damage.
It was criticised as being rushed and causing panic among organisers as they tried to comply with tight deadlines.
The council has now sought to reassure people.
Coun Will Simpson, the council’s cabinet member for culture and Greener Kirklees, said: “Putting up festive lights is a really heart-warming way communities across the whole of Kirklees come together to get into the Christmas spirit.
“This year won’t be any different – we’re no Scrooge! We can’t wait to see Kirklees glow up for the festive period.”
He said the council would have “thousands” of festive lights on display across the borough during the Christmas period and would support “enthusiastic local people” to light up towns and villages.
The council has offered grants of up to £1,250. However the deadline for applications – puzzlingly listed as September 31 – has apparently expired.
Coun Simpson added: “The council’s new Festive Lighting Manual is just intended to set out how community groups and other local people can ensure their public lights are safe and secure.
“This is just about making sure no person or community is put at any unnecessary risk and that people can celebrate their lights, their switch on events and their Christmas safely.
“If anyone is struggling with deadlines or requirements, please just contact us. We will do what we can to help and make sure that your community is shining bright this Christmas.”
Conservative councillor Martyn Bolt is involved with festive light displays in Mirfield as mayor of the town council.
He described the requirements of the new policy as appearing to be weighted against communities.
He added: “No one disputes the need for safety.
"The key factors here are the unreasonable time and qualification constraints imposed by Kirklees and the total inequality of their policy: that this only applies to Christmas illuminations.”
The council’s Festive Lighting Manual advises that permission shall only be granted for festive lighting installations to be installed for a maximum of seven weeks during the period from November 13 to January 14.
Anyone intending to install lights needs a licence covering that key period: a maximum of 63 days.
Installation is allowed from ten working days prior to November 13 with lights to be removed by January 14.
To comply with health and safety requirements applicants or their contractors must be skilled and competent with contractors being members of the Association of Street Lighting Electrical Contractors (ASLEC).
The policy appears to relate only to Christmas lights. Other festivals and faith events, such as Diwali in early November, are not affected.