Express & Star

Walsall's drab festive light displays are sign of the times and tight council budget

A trader is calling on business groups to work closely to organise better Christmas lights across Walsall next year after a crop of decidedly drab displays.

The forlorn Father Christmas Sleigh in the Saddlers Shopping Centre food court Photo credit:Phil Blagg Photography

The appeal comes after a plain miniature sleigh and tree display set up in the council-owned Saddlers Centre attracted the attention of a national newspaper, while a fir erected near The Crossing at St Paul's on Darwall Street in the town centre got the thumbs down from shoppers.

Unimpressive Christmas tree in Walsall town centre Photo credit:Phil Blagg Photography.

But council chiefs say no decision has been made on future funding and no more lights have been added to the tree near St Paul's bus station, despite complaints that it looked as if it had been "dragged" there.

Melanie Powell wasn't too impressed with the "festive" tree

In Willenhall town centre there has also been criticism of a tiny tree on display at the lock workers' memorial off Walsall Street.

The Christmas tree on the Lock Maker's Memorial in Willenhall. PIC: Councillor Simran Cheema

Mark Smith, proprietor of the traditional Sweet Shop in High Street in Walsall town centre, said: "The lights are not looking the best this year, but retail trade has been hit hard in the borough. On the old market hill we never had any lights installed in the time I've been here.

"It ran as far as in the Old Square Shopping Centre.

Mark Smith at The Sweet Shop in High Street, Walsall.

"We once had a very good town centre traders' body that organised the annual switch-on, but since the manager moved on about 12 years ago the arrangements have not been as good. There is a business partnership association, however, that focusses on the big businesses rather than the small enterprises.

"I'm in support of whatever is going to promote Walsall and hopefully next year we will have better lights displayed.

"I've been a member of Best of Walsall for many years which does a good job promoting businesses, almost all the units near me are occupied - George Street is looking up, the Ladder and the Studio schools are in new buildings up here, so the place is looking up.

"We have really good people working hard behind the scenes to improve the footfall, some are sons of Walsall who are passionate about the borough's heritage and want the place to thrive."

Brighter festive lights in Walsall's Saddlers Shopping Centre Photo credit:Phil Blagg Photography.

The Saddlers Centre display was described in The Telegraph as a sad reminder that councils are "dying" in the current economic climate.

Walsall Council stated: "Christmas lights and a mix of permanent and cut trees have been installed and decorated across the borough in readiness for the festive season.

"The council does not routinely organise 'switch-on' events and has not done so for a number of years.

"However, we do endeavour to support community events by timetabling installations and connections around specific dates and times when asked to do so."

"At this stage, no decision has been made about the future funding of Christmas lights."