‘Cough up £1’ to see the Lights

Visitors will be urged to donate �1 each to this year's Illuminations
Visitors will be urged to donate �1 each to this year's Illuminations

VISITORS to this year’s Illuminations will be urged to donate £1 each towards keeping the lights shining.

Tourism chiefs are recommending “a pound a person” after revealing last year’s average donation was just a few pence.

The total street collection last year was just under £100,000 – but it costs the council around £2m to put on the annual display.

Coun Graham Cain, executive for culture and tourism, said: “The Illuminations are worth around £275m to our local economy.

“More than three and a half million visitors come to the show every year – and they come back time and again to see the changing face of the most spectacular light show on earth.

“But in a typical British fashion we have always been reluctant to talk money and people end up just throwing in their loose change.”

But town centre businessman and former mayor Robert Wynne, who last year led a scrutiny into ways of funding the Lights, branded the move “amateurish”.

He said he was disappointed the council’s ideas were not more imaginative.

Mr Wynne said: “This seems a bit amateurish, and just putting the begging bowl out.

“All money is gratefully received but I’m disappointed they haven’t taken up some of the innovative ideas we went through.

“Our scrutiny looked at some innovative ways of getting businesses involved and giving something back in return for donations.

“The Illuminations need to be treated less like a charity and more like a business.”

Last year Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, suggested a formal tax was levied on hotels such as £10 per room.

She said: “I wouldn’t want to put anyone off coming to see the Lights by charging so it’s good this is voluntary.

“But whether it will raise enough I don’t know. We’ve still got those who will pay, and those who won’t.

“We need a serious sponsor for the Illuminations.”

The council has already cut the cost of the display by removing a 200m section at Starr Gate, and turning displays off at 10.30pm instead of 11pm on weeknights with the exception of half term.

Coun Cain added: “I want to assure everyone this (£1 contribution) does not mean we’re looking at slashing the Lights budget. We are simply suggesting a donation amount, and at “a pound a person” the Lights really do provide good value.

“Quite simply given the financial squeeze councils such as ours are facing, the more donations we have to meet the costs of the light show, then the more there is for the council to direct into our front line services such as street cleaning, social care and community facilities.”

Visitors can donate at the four booths on the Promenade at South Shore and Bispham, or online at www.visitblackpoolshop.co.uk/illuminationsfund.