Christmas lights in Medway towns saved by local businesses after council axes funding

  • WATCH ITV News Meridian's John Ryall reporting from Rochester.

Christmas lights displays will go ahead in all five Medway towns after the council axed funding.

Several local businesses have stepped in after the cash-strapped council pulled its festive lights budget in a bid to save £75,000 a year.

On Saturday (14 October) the Rochester City Centre Forum hit its own target after launching a separate campaign to secure their own lights.

Now it's been confirmed that three firms have joined forces to cover the costs of installing and running Christmas lights in Chatham, Gillingham, Rochester, Rainham and Strood high streets.

The Christmas lights switch on usually attracts thousands into high streets

Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Vince Maple, said: "My personal thanks to Norse Group, Marston Holdings and VolkerHighways.

"Their corporate support means it is now possible to have Christmas lights in all five town centres this year.

"Our decision to not use taxpayers’ money to fund Christmas lights and switch-on events saves the council £75,000.

"With a 91 per cent cut in government funding since 2010 and a £17million gap in this year’s budget, I remain resolutely determined to balance our books, even if that means further difficult decisions."

Although the switch-on events will not be taking place this year, families can book to meet the children’s characters at Strood, Gillingham and Rainham libraries.

Chatham will hold a Christmas parade and Rochester will hold various Christmas events, including the popular Dickensian Christmas Festival.

Medway Council said they had also secured government funding to provide free bus travel in and around Medway on Saturday, 9 and Sunday, 10 December (up to 8pm).

They are also offering two free days of parking across all of the car parks it owns: on Saturday, 16 and Sunday, 17 December.

Cllr Lauren Edwards, Portfolio Holder for Economic and Social Regeneration and Inward Investment at Medway Council, said: "Despite the council’s incredibly challenging financial situation, where we are able to help our residents and business communities, we will.

"I am pleased that we will be waiving the parking fees on two dates, over a weekend, just before Christmas.

"This will allow people who work in Medway to park for free, as well as encourage residents to shop local and visit one of the many fantastic restaurants over the festive period."