North-east community groups upset over council’s bright idea to make them pay Christmas light bills

Community leaders have said streets could be left in darkness if council proposals to make groups pay the electricity bills for Christmas lights are approved.

The Kincardine and Mearns area committee agreed to give £1,000 to the Stonehaven Business Association for its festive illuminations but, if approved later this month, the group may then have to pay for the running costs of the lights.

A report will go before the infrastructure services committee on November 30 which proposes that any community groups who erect lights will have to pay for the electricity used.

The move is part of an attempt by Aberdeenshire Council to cut costs.

It is estimated the local authority could save £11,000 if the groups pay their own bills.

Niall Menzies, chairman of the Stonehaven Business Association, said he found it quite strange that the area committee had agreed to give his organisation money then look at introducing a charge for electricity.

He added: “We are thankful to the committee for giving us the £1,000 which will help repair and replace some of the lights.

“But although the decision has yet to be made I find it strange the council is looking to introduce charging.

“We don’t want to fall out with the council as they have given us a lot, but it would be good if they didn’t go ahead with this proposal.”

Cllr Wendy Agnew, who represents Stonehaven, said: “This is a draconian proposal.

“It seems unfair on the voluntary groups who help to make towns in our area light up over the Christmas period.”

Helen Reid, chairwoman of the Laurencekirk Christmas Lights Committee, was appalled by the proposal.

She said: “We had a meeting and we couldn’t believe what the council was proposing here.

“I am completely flabbergasted and I will be writing to my councillors and MSP about this.

“It could put Laurencekirk into darkness if it goes ahead.”