Austerity Christmas: Crowdfunding festive lights

An increasing number of towns and cities in the UK have been forced to raise money to pay for their own Christmas lights.

High Street illuminations are being crowdfunded by several communities who have been told their local council can no longer afford to meet the cost.

England’s National Association of Local Councils has acknowledged that town halls are starting to embrace the concept of crowdfunding as a means of paying for non-essential services.

Its chief executive Jonathan Owen told Sky News: “I think we’re aware of several councils who are considering crowdfunding, for services that are discretionary services, not life or death services like adult care or education.

“The issue is that some of the larger councils across England are facing some real struggles (and) significant budget pressures.

“It’s our councils, community councils, parish and town councils that have really stepped up and said, ‘We can run some of these events that would otherwise probably not happen’, and I think they do that because their residents want it and they can see the benefit of it to business and it boosts community cohesion.”

The crowdfunded Christmas scenario is mirrored in parts of Scotland, too. Angus Council in the north-east of Scotland is one of a number of local authorities which isn’t directly funding street lighting displays this year.

It has prompted locals in the Angus town of Monifieth to launch festive fundraisers on social media to foot the bill themselves.

Sheena Cochrane, chair of Monifieth Community Council, told Sky News: “We began to realise that money is tight and we could do this ourselves – we could all come together as a community, it’s a way of bringing everybody together, and taking ownership of our own lights and our own town centre instead of it just being the council that did it.

“So from something negative, it has really become something positive.”

John Coventry, of the fundraising site GoFundMe, said it had seen a pre-Christmas growth in people crowdfunding.

He told Sky News: “It certainly seems to us that there has been an increase in activity around this area for raising money for local Christmas events and local lights over previous years.

“One of the big advantages of the internet, when it works best, is when it brings people together on their own terms to raise money and take action for stuff that they really care about.”