As I head down the high street to do my Christmas shopping the twinkling fairy lights can't help but bring a child-like smile to my face. In a year that has been fraught with spending cuts and job losses, the festive season offers us all a bit of light relief and something to look forward to.
But a light up Santa might not ignite such a festive glow if you are one of the thousands of public sector workers fearing for their jobs. The thought of your cash strapped council spending your salary on Christmas lights could well bring out an irritable scrooge instead.
And the lights are often the cheap part.
It's the switching on ceremonies that can cost the big bucks. One group of people who are always going to love a good light show is the Z list celebs who get the big cheques for flipping the switch. Most stars pocket a tidy sum of between £3000 and £5000 for a few minutes of work but residents of Paisley in Scotland were up in arms to hear that Ex- X-factor crooner Olly Murs took home a hefty £15,000 for his button pressing skills this year.
But, what's the other choice - cancel Christmas? Well, for some councils, yes.
Walsall and Cheltenham councils have both chosen not to hold a switching on ceremony this year while Bromsgrove have decided to use local entertainers for theirs and the poor residents of Chichester won't be getting any Christmas lights at all.
But don't we all deserve a bit of bling now and again? In tough times the last thing you want to do is squeeze every last piece of fun or festivity out of life.
Manchester council have publicly defended their decision to spend over £300,000 on the city's lights display. Some of the massive budget was covered by local businesses, but the security and stewards for the switching on event alone set the council back £50,000. Their defence? It attracts thousands of shoppers, it is good for business and it puts more money and morale back into the struggling economy.
In my perfect Christmas nativity I would have a happy high street adorned with thousands of twinkling lights and filled with the festive notes of the latest high profile X Factor reject. But in these economic times, I think it would be fair to settle for a toned down version.
Let's there be lights but cut down on the electricity bill by casting off a few glowing Santas, and save on the celebs by giving a local talent the chance to be the button pusher instead. Let's face it, Olly Murs would have done it for free a few years ago!
By: Emma Jayne Jones
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