'It's so depressing': Struggling local councils scrap Christmas cheer

Many local councils face making difficult cuts in the next few years, ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia reports

Local councils across the country have opted to cancel Christmas markets and other festivities this year as an increasing number of them face bankruptcy.

Almost one in five council leaders in England say they expect to declare bankruptcy either this year or next.

Both Nottingham and Birmingham councils have filed section 114 notices this year, which is the equivalent process to a business declaring bankruptcy.

Seven councils in total have issued 114 notices since 2020, out of a total of 317.

The area where Brighton's Christmas market usually is. Credit: ITV News

Many other councils say in order to stay afloat they will have to make painful cuts in key areas.

In order to make savings councils have cancelled traditional Christmas celebrations.

Beaminster decided not to have its annual Christmas light festival this year due to funding constraints and concerns about safety and lack of community engagement, despite its popularity.

Brighton's Christmas market has also been cancelled, leaving the centre without the usually thriving shopping.

Robyn Cullen told ITV News she couldn't think of "anything else to do around Brighton other than go to the pub."

Robyn Cullen Credit: ITV News

In Braintree the council this year decided to not have its annual Christmas lights to save money.

Local resident Olivia said it removed the Christmas spirit from the area. "To see it looking like this its so depressing," she added.

The Labour-led Local Government Association (LGA) said many councils had long ago made the easy cuts during the austerity years and they will now be forced to take money out of social care and children's programmes.

The LGA, which represents the vast majority of local authorities in England, estimated that collectively councils face a £4 billion funding gap in the next two years just to maintain current levels of services at a time of rising demand.

Half of respondents to the LGA's survey said they are not confident they will have enough funding to meet their legal duties after no further money was provided by the Chancellor.

A survey by the Conservative-led County Councils Network (CCN), which represents 23 counties and 13 unitary authorities serving 47% of the population, showed nine in 10 of its member councils said the autumn statement left them in a “significantly worse” position.

ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia explains why local councils are struggling this Christmas

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove said on Wednesday he had met senior council members and called the one-in-five figure "at the top-ish end of the scale."

But he insisted poor decision-making at some councils rather than Government funding cuts had led to financial distress.

Mr Gove added: “I think that certainly if one looks back, it is absolutely the case of each of the local authorities that have had to issue section 114 notices have had failures of leadership management and governance, and some have taken risks that were not merited.

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