Christmas lights switch-off could damage high streets

Councils across the UK are being urged to keep Christmas lights switched on in towns and villages amidst concerns that dark high streets could deter shoppers.

According to the Save our Christmas Lights campaign from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), councils risk disappointing shoppers and damaging local business as ongoing budget cuts force them to scale back or abandon their illuminations.

The newly-launched FSB campaign follows reports last week that a Kent town's festive display switch-on was met with jeers from shoppers and local businesses. According to the BBC, traders in the town were disappointed by the poor display and felt that it would not draw shoppers into the area.

Launching the campaign, national chairman for the FSB John Walker said it was 'disappointing' that many local councils had removed funding for Christmas lights.

"We all know that UK high streets have been suffering for some time and Christmas can make or break a business for the year ahead."

"So ensuring that our high streets are attractive and drive in trade is important - something that having festive lights does," he said.

However, Walker said many small firms and communities had shown resilience by coming up with innovative ways to raise funding for local lights and to get people onto the high street.

Small firms in communities such as Monton, Manchester and Tewskesbury, Gloucestershire rallied together to raise thousands of pounds to keep their lights switched on after council funding was removed.

The campaign forms part of the FSB's wider move to reverse the declining trend on the high street and defend the choice and diversity available to customers when shopping locally.

The FSB called for small firms to post photos of their business dressed in festive spirit on social media sites. It is also filming high streets across the country, looking for examples of villages and towns that are drawing shoppers to their high streets and local, independent shops.