Community council braced for £3,000 lights shortfall

Marion Short
Marion Short

Hawick Community Council is staring down the barrel of a £3,000 deficit in funds to pay for December’s Christmas lights display.

And chairman Marion Short told Monday night’s meeting that she was “appalled” that the town body is having to pick up the £4,100 tab for the stress testing of the lights, which was carried out at the request of Scottish Borders Council.

With just over £3,500 in its Christmas lights fund, the community council will need to find another £600 to pay for the stress testing, while additional expenditure on the erection of the lights, electricity and insurance are anticipated to push the shortfall up to around £3,000.

Addressing the three SBC councillors at the meeting – Alastair Cranston, Watson McAteer and Ron Smith – Mrs Short asked: “Gentlemen, where do we go?”

In response, Councillor McAteer said: “The first point of this is that you are dealing with a debt . . . and what’s the method of perhaps finding money to help with that.

“What’s stage two looking like? If there’s an option to get the fixing plates replaced at [a cost of] £5,000-£8,000, you’ve then got to make a choice of whether you can do it or not. We’re in that sort of place.”

Councillor Ron Smith said: “I think the first route should be to David Robertson, the council’s director of finance, just to clarify the situation and ask his advice.”

He continued: “What worries me on this is that the community council should have known, or been allowed to know, what the potential cost of the stress testing was before it ever took place. You need to know in advance what the potential cost would be, and if you know you can’t afford it, [then it’s] end of story.”

Mr Short said that initial enquiries led the community council to believe that the cost of stress testing would be around £1,500 to £2,000, and they didn’t anticipate this [larger bill] coming in.

She then enquired whether or not Hawick Common Good Fund might be able to help.

“That might have to be your fallback position,” said Mr Smith.

“The last stop,” added community councillor Jim Little.

Vice-chair Cameron Knox agreed to approach finance director Robertson and “take it from there”.