Christmas cuts shock in Islington

CHRISTMAS lights are set to be axed as Islington Council battles a multi-million pound funding crisis.

This could be the last year that the borough is lit up for Christmas before Labour-run Islington Council scraps them from 2011-12.

The move – which aims to save the council around �45,000 a year – has been revealed in a leaked secret “hit list” of proposed cuts.

It comes just months after the council also decided to axe funding for hanging baskets in Upper Street, Holloway Road and other streets around the borough in a bid to save �140,000 a year.

Because of Government cutbacks, Islington Council needs to save around �100million in the four years between 2011 and 2015 – and turning off Christmas lights is just one of a series of swingeing cuts.

Lollipop men could be axed, adventure playgrounds closed, home-help for OAPs ditched and parks left unlocked at night as part of the planned measures.

David Twydell, chairman of Chapel Market Traders’ Association, said: “It’s pretty Scrooge-like considering that Christmas lights are once a year. It seems that Christmas is slowly dwindling away. Christmas should be Christmas and there should be lights and music to bring joy to people.

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“We have already seen hanging baskets go and now it’s the lights. It seems that everybody is going bah humbug and we don’t want it. We want our lights.”

Danny Michelson, chairman of the Highbury Barn Traders’ Association, said: “The council has already bought the lights in Highbury Barn and the only extra expense each year is paying an electrician to hang them up and switch them on. Are they really that hard up?”

Islington’s annual festive lights switch-on is the highlight of the year for many residents and business.

Only this month, TV soap star Larry Lamb – better known as scheming rogue Archie Mitchell in the BBC’s EastEnders – switched on hundreds of twinkling lights at the Angel, Islington.

Councillor Terry Stacy, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition, said: “Council leader Catherine West has become Scrooge overnight. Bah hambug! This will be the last year that Islington has any Christmas lights.”

Islington Council refused to be drawn on the issue as it has a policy of not commenting on leaked reports, but it pointed out that all the cuts are still proposals at this stage and insisted that no final decisions had been taken.