Oxford

David Cameron Witney Christmas lights switch-on 'reassessed'

  • 4 March 2013
  • From the section Oxford

A Christmas lights switch-on event featuring David Cameron in his own constituency is being reassessed because of the costs involved.

The event on 30 November attracted 8,000 people and cost the town council £45,000.

Harry Eaglestone, the mayor of Witney, said he would like to see the event broken up over several days and utilise different venues.

The prime minister said he had asked to be "kept in the loop" on plans.

In a statement he said: "Following a review of feedback from last year's Christmas lights switch-on, I understand that Witney Town Council has consulted with all those involved and that they are now taking on board the recommendations.

"I have asked to be kept in the loop with plans for this year's festive celebrations which I am sure will be a huge success."

Stilt walkers

Mr Eaglestone has told the BBC that controlling the crowds at the event had become difficult.

He said he would like to see a smaller event without Mr Cameron or the need for road closures.

Lesley Semaine, chair of Witney Chamber of Commerce, said: "If Father Christmas could turn the lights on, I'm sure the children would still be delighted.

"Although it's very nice to have [David Cameron], if it was the difference between having the evening than not, then obviously we would have to cut that out.

"It would be a very, very sad affair if we couldn't think about cutting costs to enable the evening to go ahead."

The town council's working party has discussed alternatives after "numbers have continued to swell over recent years".

A spokesman added: "A desire was expressed by the working party to reduce the amount of officer time involved in organising the event."

Security for the event cost £2,300, but the spokesman added: "If we had Kermit the Frog [switching on the lights] it would still cost £2,300."

In addition to the prime minister's appearance, 2012's free event included stilt walkers, fairground rides, reindeer and live music. The town's main road was closed for six hours.

A 28-year-old woman was arrested by police after she allegedly tried to climb over a barrier.

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