There wasn’t much festive cheer in the Council Chamber last Tuesday night when members debated how to celebrate the festive season in towns across the borough.
After an hour of discussions, members voted to replicate last years switch ons in the legacy councils at a cost of £24,000.
There were four options on the table, one at a cost of £40,000 which would extend the festivities to the Borough’s sixty towns and villages, or another option just to have switch ons in the legacy councils towns of Coleraine, Ballymoney, Limvavady and Ballycastle, at a cost of £14,000.
Many members said that they felt the timescale for bringing the proposal forward was too tight.
Ballymoney DUP Alderman John Finlay said that all ratepayers should be treated equally, and seconded Deputy Mayor, Darryl Wilson’s proposal for the first option for the roll over from last year.
Moyle Sinn Fein councillor Kieran Mullholland proposed an amendment, option two, to extend the festive celebrations, at a cost of £60,000.
“The other options are town centric,” he said. “ This first option to roll over from last year leaves three quarters of the borough out.
Backing her colleague, Limavady Sinn Fein councillor Brenda Chivers said that ‘everyone needed to get the same treatment’.
DUP councillor George Duddy asked how much Council had set aside in the budged for the switch ons.
“If a town got a tree last year, they will still get one this year under option one, is this correct,” asked the former Mayor of Coleraine.
Corporate Director of Leisure Services, Richard Baker said that any town that had a tree last year would get one this year and told members that £24,000 had been set aside in the budget.
But the meeting heard that an additional £23,000 would be spent for 28 trees for the towns of the borough.
Peter Thompson from Council’s events team told the meeting that the £24,000 would cover all costs including staff, entertainment and music, but not the costs of the trees or the lights, this was an additional cost of “£23,000
Independent member Padraig McShane urged members to make a decision: “It’s time we got real. We set the rates low so we have difficult decision to make,” he said.
SDLP councillor Gerry Mullan was happy to go with option one, but said: “It means so much to the people of the villages to have a tree.”
On being put to a vote 28 voted for option one to roll over from last year, seven voted against.