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Lisburn council to push ahead with over £500,000 spend on Christmas festival, despite protests

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Festive: the Lights Festival has been a popular feature over the years in Lisburn’s Christmas celebrations

Festive: the Lights Festival has been a popular feature over the years in Lisburn’s Christmas celebrations

Festive: the Lights Festival has been a popular feature over the years in Lisburn’s Christmas celebrations

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council will push ahead with its £535,000 festive spend after councillors knocked back a bid to cut costs.

The budget for the Lisburn Light Festival was rubber stamped at a full council meeting last night - but had already passed in a "heated" closed door debate the week before.

The Development Committee gave unanimous support to the plan on October 7.

An attempt to wind-back the cost failed in a second, confidential meeting on October 21.

Speaking before the full council last night, Alliance Alderman Stephen Martin said he wished to "register his dissent", and proposed all 40 elected representatives get a vote on whether installations be dropped to "substantially reduce" the cost.

The Lisburn North representative said: "There was a heated debate and the committee decided to go a different way [to the proposal to cut costs].

"I think when we're committing this council to a significant amount of money, given the current economic circumstances, I think all 40 members should be on record on this particular program as to whether they're in favour of it going ahead as is, or as amended."

He was backed by Green councillor Si Lee, who previously said the decision to splash more than half a million pounds on the light festival was "wrong-headed".

Mr Lee added: "It is a substantial amount of money at a challenging time, plus I also have some safety concerns about it."

A motion to go into confidential to allow all members to have their say was voted down by the DUP and UUP.

Alliance, the Green Party, Sinn Féin and SDLP were in favour.

The same pitch to reduce costs had already failed in a one-and-a-half-hour wrangle last week.

Alliance Alderman Amanda Grehan's proposal to drop the light tunnel and prism was voted down at the Development Committee Meeting, with 12 votes cast for the light festival to go ahead as proposed, and 5 in favour of reducing the cost.

The budget had gone before - and passed - the same committee just two weeks earlier, when the original £535,000 budget was seconded by Ald Grehan.

The figure includes £240,000 associated with an existing, three-year contract.

Speaking at Tuesday's full council meeting, Mayor Nicholas Trimble said: "This wasn’t the first time we made the decision - that was the third, or arguably the fourth time."

UUP's Jim Dillon, who chairs the Development Committee, said members had already had their chance to speak against it, with 29 of 40 turning out for last week's meeting.

He added: "As far as I’m concerned this went through the full democratic process."

The Lisburn Christmas display will be on the same scale as 2019 - with the addition of Covid safety measures.

Installations include a light canopy on Bow Street, prisms at Market Square and "angel photo stations".

The festival will extend to Dundonald for the first time.

A food market is flagged as a possibility, depending on public health advice.

The council has bid for £100,000 for festivities from the Department for Communities.

Councillors ruled out Halloween fireworks after a report dubbed them a costly "15-minute display in a time of austerity".

A socially-distanced drive-in pyrotechnics event - floated for Balmoral Park - would have cost up to £50,000.

Belfast Telegraph


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