Bexhill Christmas lights — fresh search for group to organise display

Bexhill Christmas lights switch-on ceremony 2017. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-170212-121858001
Bexhill Christmas lights switch-on ceremony 2017. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-170212-121858001

Rother District Council is looking to work with a community group which it hopes will step in to organise Bexhill’s Christmas lights display. 

At the start of July the authority’s cabinet agreed to terminate a funding agreement with Shining Lights (Bexhill) Limited, due to concerns around its ‘lack of transparency and engagement’.

At the same time, cabinet members agreed to enter into an alternative funding agreement with the Bexhill Chamber of Commerce and Tourism (BCCT), which had expressed interest in taking over the annual Christmas lights display.

Since then however, BCCT says it is no longer in the position to take on the task due to changes in its executive membership and a lack of capacity and time as a result.

The matter was considered at a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Monday (July 29), where council leaders considered what the authority’s next steps should be. 

During the discussion, cabinet member for Bexhill affairs Christine Bayliss (Lab, Bexhill Central) said that a local group had expressed interest in taking over the role.

She said: “There is interest from a local organisation that is working its way forward.

“We should be able to come back with some further proposals from them after the (August) holidays.”

As a result of this, Cllr Bayliss advised cabinet members ‘to advertise for constituted interested parties to submit an interest in providing the Christmas lights by the end of August.’

This course of action was one of three possible options put forward by officers (and the only one which would not see the light display cancelled).

The other two options would have seen the council’s £13,500 share of the funding either returned to reserves or put into ‘an event programme specifically for Bexhill.’

Officers also reiterated their view that the council would not be able to provide Christmas lights by itself.

Council leader Doug Oliver said: “I am aware there are a group coming together. It is a bit early to announce that at this moment in time. 

“But there are some genuine community groups out there that want to support this and I am sure we will have something quite soon, in the next few weeks, which we will have to present to officers.”

In previous council papers, officers said they would expect the lighting display to be accompanied by a switch-on event, although in the potential agreement with BCTT officers said the funding would be tied only to the provision of lighting.