In total, Stirling Council spent £117,849.14 on Christmas lights in 2022 as businesses and individuals have been trying to cope with the effects of rising inflation amid the cost-of-living crisis.
Go Forth Stirling and Stirling Council made a combined investment of over £105,000 into this project.
Freedom of Information (FOI) requests revealed that Stirling Council invested £97,178.52 into the new lights.
The Council’s investment is in addition to their contracted payment to Festive Lighting Supplier of £20,670.62, for the installation, storage and maintenance of the lighting.
The upgraded lights feature chandeliers, crowns and wreaths. They are designed to capture the city’s local history. They are also more energy efficient than previous festive lighting.
This investment also comes as Stirling Council faces “its biggest ever financial challenge with a £17 million funding gap.”
Cllr Margaret Brisley, the Convener for Stirling Council’s Finance, Economy and Corporate Support Committee, said: “[This investment will] make a real difference to Stirling’s Festive period for our excellent local businesses, as well as our residents and visitors.
“After a dark couple of years with the pandemic, it’ll be wonderful to see the city centre filled with families getting into the Christmas spirit with Stirling bright and beaming with new lights this festive season.”
What do Stirling’s residents think?
Ian Kerr, a Stirling resident, views the Council’s investment positively: “Our public services need more money.
“Our country, be it the UK or an independent Scotland, should provide the money needed through taxes.
“This [money] would be used for all the services expected to be carried out by local councils. If that means taxes, and even council taxes, have to rise, then so be it.
“We must provide quality local councils and social work services, especially in these hard times, caused mostly by our current UK Conservative Government’s policies.”
Another Stirling resident thinks that Stirling Council should be spending money on more pressing matters.
“I am a foster carer. Foster carers are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. The Council has given a very basic raise, but they removed an allowance a few years ago.
“[The Council] stated there’s no money to give to care-experienced children, for whom they have corporate parental responsibility.
“Foster carers do not get child benefits. [They] cannot claim free school meals, clothing grants, or school holiday bridging loans. Care-experienced children are excluded from the benefits Stirling Council is giving [to] other low-income families.
“The lights do look pretty, but care-experienced kids would rather have a bit more pocket money, be able to go out with their friends, go on school trips and so on, which some carers cannot afford. I’ve heard of some foster carers having to use food banks.”
A reason why Stirling Council invested in the new festive lighting is to provide Stirling’s local businesses with more traction.
Do the Christmas lights help local businesses?
Go Forth Stirling Project Director, Danielle McRorie-Smith, said: “The new lighting displays will create a vibrant fresh look for Stirling as we approach the festive season and get ready to celebrate the city and all its fantastic shops, restaurants, pubs, cafes and other venues.
“We hope the innovative, bespoke designs will give everyone a lift and encourage people into the city centre to support local businesses and meet up with family and friends.”
Brig asked The Burgh Coffeehouse whether they had seen an influx of consumers due to the new lights.
Abi, an employee at the café, said: “Not at all really. Even on the day of the light switch on, we didn’t see many extra customers compared to our usual busy Saturday.
“It hasn’t really put our footfall up to any extent since they were put up either.”
Janna, the owner of Janna’s Bakery, concurred: “I think our shop always received a lot of interest with lights or not.
“[The Christmas lights are] a very beautiful way to decorate and celebrate the festive season. [It] creates a cosy atmosphere which customers appreciate 100%.
“[However], I personally think there could be a lot of things Stirling Council could invest in for its people apart from the lights. Stirling is lacking a lot of activities and things to do – despite being a city, it feels like a town. I wish there were things like clubs or shops that could be handy for us.”
Even as a Stirling resident, Janna believes the Council could be investing in other things.
“The Council could invest in something more useful, like solving the problem with the bins! Collecting general bins only once every four weeks is a big shame. This is something that should be taken seriously.”
Stirling Council was asked for comment and referred to the cited press release.
Featured Image Credit: Julia Benko