By Oliver James Pike
Leaving the house is a rare event as of late, yet it is something that must be done on occasion. (Even politicians and the media would have us believe we are risking our very lives on deciding to open our front doors.) However, they may now be correct. The icy weather has brought with it icy pavements. Tripping may be a minor inconvenience for a young man but could be more than an embarrassment for a pensioner or indeed anyone who's head hits the curb at the wrong angle. Roughly 42,000 people are injured each year by these icy pavements yet local councils are infamously terrible at keeping the streets safe with a simple bit of cost effective grit. Beyond dangerous icy pavements, councils regularly fail to attend to the basic maintenance of services expected by taxpayers ,who are instead treated to expensive spectacles designed to distract everyone from considering who is funding all this incompetence. Bin collections become sporadic and potholes ubiquitous as tax bills go up. Perhaps if councils spent less money on diversity officers, fountains and modern art installations people wouldn't be so angry.
One (literally) glaring example of this failure to allocate funding is the use of Christmas lights across UK high streets. These ugly excuses for decorations cost a small amount in comparison to other aspects of council spending, but a death by a thousand cuts effect is felt by UK taxpayers. Furthermore the question still stands "Why are apparently cash strapped councils spending substantial amounts on frivolities while basic needs are being neglected?". Glasgow, for example, spent £343,000 this Christmas and Dundee £181,000. Both cities are at the centre of Scotland's drug death crisis. Could this money not have been better spent?
The Telegraph even reported that some councils in England spent over £310,000 on celebrities to switch their lights across 2018-2019. While businesses struggle under increasing rates and families fork out even more for the matchstick services provided, councils line the pockets of self-important millionaires while filling the high street with garish, often personalised (at great cost) "decorations". Like the celebrities who switch them on, I doubt anyone really cares about these lights and would be unlikely to notice their absence. Pro-light advocates (namely council employees responding to FOI requests) claim these lights instill a sense of community and encourages shopping. The high street is dying ,due in no small part to local councils obstructing commercial activity at every twist and turn, and what is left of our communities is unlikely worth preserving. How are lights going to do anything but mask this decline? In reality, it all does very little and contrarian studies ,trying to prove butterfly effect links, cannot set aside the fact that all this money could have been spent elsewhere for greater impact.
The worst, and most revealing, part of this display of machine gun spending is that the council doesn't even have the decency to remove these eyesores at the end of the festive season. I look forward with great anticipation to see what date the lights finally come down this year (I have even once seen some lights up in March!) Every time I see a grimy Rudolph clinging to a dilapidated wall in the middle of January I am reminded that the council must have failed its new years resolution of being more efficient and focused.
Firework shows are an even more egregious waste of money. The beuracrat organised, politically correct and taxpayer funded firework shows put on by councils and cities across the UK never have the understated charm (or risk) of a homemade fireworks show. As a result they are moribund and charmless. For example, London's 2021 show was a mixture of terrible modern music, virtue signalling through the medium of "drone art" and recordings of people being hopeful and optimistic. Fireworks are in many ways the worst form of state spending. They are expensive, momentary and are all but useless to the people who foot the bill. (At least these taxpayer funded explosions don't end with dead children in foreign countries).
Were we ever asked if we wanted these monstorsities erected every year? Were we asked if we cared about these forgettable firework displays? If we were polled I reckon we would be far more concerned about bin collections, street crime and tax bills than what colour the sky will be when the year changes. I for one am not impressed by the council attempts at festive cheer and would much rather they fix the underlying problems destroying communities in the UK, rather than pretending community spirit exists with phoney neon messaging.
This farce should come to an end! I for one would not miss these lights and would be quite content with a humble tree in a town centre and some superficial fairy lights. Spare me the £40,000 neon Santa, spare me the politically correct firework shows and spare me the d list celebrities. More importantly, spare the taxpayer from yet another wallet crunching bill.