We are the community of Neath and we're raising £11,000 so Neath can have it's Christmas switch-on this year!!
Why do we need to do this?
Neath Port Talbot Council have announced that they will no longer be able to fund the Christmas Lights Switch-On and Santa Parade. This event is loved by and excites so many people, of all ages, within the town and its surrounding villages, so this news came as a huge disappointment. As I am sure you are aware, the lights are fundamental in creating a festive experience at this time of year and are important for the well-being of the town and its people. Christmas is a special time that makes memories, and that is priceless.
It was hoped that the Neath Town Council and the Town Centre Consortium would be able to pick up some of the shortfall and that, with their help, the event could go ahead. However, they too have announced that no financial assistance can be offered. It is now the end of October and members of the Neath community feel that we can not sit back any longer and do nothing, in the vain hope that something might happen.
If we are going to keep the Christmas spirit in Neath shining, as it has in the past, we need to act NOW as a community. We need to stop squabbling over who is to blame and find a way to make something happen for ourselves. We need to think outside the box, pool our resources and make Christmas 2014 special because it is OURS.
What will it cost?
A great deal can be done without a budget and there is a group of committed community volunteers, headed by Darren Nichols (of Love Neath and Chairman of The Neath & District Chamber of Trade) already forming that will work on this side of things. They will be holding a public meeting on 29th October at 7pm in the Constitutional Club (Orchard St) in order to discuss options, solidify plans and see what resources the community, as a whole, can bring to the table to create a magical alternative to the traditional Neath Parade.
However, if we are to have our lights again this year, there is still a financial hurdle that must be overcome in order to have them put up, maintained, powered and taken down. To do this, just for the pedestrian zone in Neath Town Centre, it will cost over £8700 (this includes £1215 of energy costs and a charge for moving the "welcome to Neath" sign to a more appropriate location). Lights in Victoria Gardens will cost a further £3850 and Windsor Rd and the Parade / Croft another £6500 and £3100, respectively. Initially, we will just be looking to fund the lights for the pedestrianised town centre, along with some treats for the children.
What's in it for me?
You'll get a great glow inside because you've helped save Christmas in Neath! You'll have created some festive cheer, put smiles on children's faces and increased footfall for traders!
But, not only that, we also have a number of rewards available to our pledges! From getting your name put on Santa's "Naughty or Nice" list (which he is kindly lending to the Gwyn Hall for all to see!), and hotdogs at the switch-on, to publicity for your business on our social media pages, banners on the night and even airtime on Nation Radio! Check out all our rewards on the right hand side of this page.
We are only 5 weeks away from the 1st week of December so time is short, but community spirit is strong in Neath and there are many hundreds of passionate people. We believe that this CAN be done and, if you do too, make a pledge and be a part of creating a true community fuelled Christmas for Neath in 2014!!
The first Neath Community Christmas will be held on Thursday 4th December between 6pm and 8pm.
Who is organising this? Are there councillors heading it up?
No, we are not councillors. This project is being driven by the community – community activists, traders, community groups, schools and people that just want to help!
Who will be handling the money?
Canalside Sanctuary (headed by Darren Nichols) are dealing with the financial side of things. They are a registered charity with an independent accountant who audits their books - keeping everything as transparent as possible.
What about people who don’t have internet access – is there some way for them to contribute?
Yes, there are buckets in shops and on stalls in the market. However, these donations will not be able to receive any of the pledge rewards. Cheques can be made out to “Sanctuary Neath” and once they have cleared we will pledge on your behalf. Darren Nichols has a card reader that can be used to also pledge via The Sanctuary. To pay by cheque or use the card reader please send us a message ASAP.
What will happen to the money if the target isn't reached?
The money pledged via the website will not be transferred to us - it will go back into you bank account (it's currently being held by Paypal). The money that is donated offline - in buckets and by cheque etc via the Sanctuary will be put towards towards the Neath Community Christmas event we are planning for the 4th December -which will go ahead regardless of whether we have lights or not
Will there still be a switch-on & parade? It isn’t mentioned in the costings.
Yes! There will be a switch-on event but not a parade. The cost would go up substantially and we do not have time left for event health and safety application processes.
However, there will be a Neath Community Christmas night, regardless of the lights, as it is a £0 budget event. If successful, the switch on will be incorporated into it.
What will the Neath Community Christmas be like?
That is for you all to decide at the public meeting! We already know it will involve late night shopping, and pockets of entertainment & activities around the town.
Will there be a Christmas Tree?
Yes! NPTCBC have confirmed a tree has been donated!
What happened to the old lights? Can’t we just use those or get some donated by a big business?
The old lights are still there and the council will let us use them. It is labour and energy costs we need to fund. If lights were donated this would still need to be paid, plus there would be problems of storage after Christmas and converting lampposts.
Why does it cost so much? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to use a different contractor?
Quite possibly! The figures are those quoted by the council for them to do the job as usual. Unfortunately, time constraints have not allowed us to shop around this year. However, it is definitely something we would look into next year.
Why can’t the traders pay? It’s their businesses it’s affecting
The businesses in Neath already have to pay extremely high business rates, set by Welsh Government, not NPTCBC. The Governments austerity measures are hitting them hard, small independents in particular. In addition, the lights do not go on until many shops etc. are about to shut. It would not be fair to expect the traders of Neath to shoulder this burden alone.
The traders are already pledging in-kind donations and services for the event on the 4th December and many have suggested they will be pledging money too. They have already been working incredibly hard this year to transform and improve Neath, so that people view it as somewhere they want to live, work and shop. They need support to get over this last hurdle.
So who is asking for this?
The community (residents, shoppers & children) have actually been the ones shouting the loudest to keep the lights. They do not want to lose the “festive experience” and, without it, they would seek out alternatives to Neath. However, this project is about the well-being of the whole town, not any particular group.
What about the £40,000 grant received by the Town Centre Consortium – Couldn’t that be used for the lights & parade?
The £40,000 was granted for: branding (fabric bags, stickers, etc.); a website and app; and a programme of events. The events part COULD include things to do with Christmas, but not the lights themselves. However, once everything else is taken into consideration, it does not leave a massive amount for events and these need to span the whole year – not just Christmas. So, instead of the very expensive parade, the Consortium has decided to do a number of smaller events during December.
Why should we pay? It’s the council’s responsibility – we pay increasing council tax and are getting less for our money, we shouldn’t be helping them!
Christmas lights are not something the council is actually “responsible” for, but it is something that NPTCBC have always funded for Neath, Port Talbot and Pontardawe town centres. We have just taken it for granted. Many councils do not do this. Even within our own Borough, NPTCBC does not pay for all of the Christmas lights. For example: In Briton Ferry, the lights are paid for by the Briton Ferry Town Council (made up of elected volunteers); A community group, Melincryddan Community Conference, organises an annual May Day fete to raise money for the lights in the Melin; And the tree and lights in Cadoxton are funded via a collection pot in the local pub.
Our council tax barely covers 1/5th of the services provided by NPTCBC. Remember, they pay for our schools, libraries, social services (including care of the elderly and disabled), roads, street lighting, and of course, the controversial refuse collections, to name but a few. The rest of the money used to pay for these services comes from Welsh Government, who are currently demanding cuts, which they themselves have received from Westminster. NPTCBC are now in the position where they may be forced to close schools & libraries and make redundancies. In light of that, we feel they made the right decision not to fund the Christmas lights.
Please remember that by not funding the lights, the council do not really lose anything, it will be the community, the children in particular, and in turn the traders that will lose out. By not pledging, it's not the council you'll be hurting, but your own community. This is not an us and them situation - we all need to work together to succeed.
What about next year and the year after? If we do it once the council will assume we’ll do it every year!
In all likelihood, the council will never fund the Christmas lights and parade in the way that they have in the past. Not because they want to take advantage of the community, but because they simply cannot afford to. However, creating the Christmas event for ourselves will instil a much greater sense of pride. Plus, we get to decide the way we think it should be and transform it into something better! The community response we've seen has not only shown us how much passion and positivity there is in Neath, but also how many different ideas and resources are out there. We may well do a better job than the council!
Unfortunately, we have been left with just 6 weeks to try to organise something for this year’s lights. In future years, we will have all year to plan and raise funds. Crowd-funding like this was just seen as a speedy solution which we hope will not be needed again.
Why bother, the lights look rubbish anyway?
There are a lot of people who disagree with this and would say ANY lights instantly make the town feel more festive. Even if they are bad it still creates a warm glow that should make you feel better on a cold winters evening!
However, we accept that the lights could be improved. If we raise enough money, this is something we could look to address next year. We would like them to be more coordinated and eco-friendly and would look into LED lights, that we may be able to leave up all year, to reduce costs.
Are the Councillors going to cancel their Christmas party / banquet and donate the money to the lights?
The fact is, the elaborate events, that people believe councillors attend at the expense of the taxpayer, just don’t exist. The only exception being the Mayoral Inauguration, but no champagne (or alcohol of any sort) or fine dining is involved. If people feel strongly about it, as part of the current budget consultation, they could suggest that the event is scrapped entirely (have your say here: http://www.npt.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=12425)
If you know your local councillor can afford it, give them a nudge to pledge!
Couldn’t the Council afford the lights if they didn’t mess about with the M4 junction / pay for the massive re-development / change all our bins?!!
The council received funding from The Welsh Government for the M4 junction and a European Grant for the Re-development in town. They have not used money for these things that could have gone towards the Christmas lights.
The issue of the bins and recycling, well, we all have our opinions on this! However, there is no point complaining about things that have already been done, when trying to find a solution for the future!