O' Little Star : TaxPayers' Alliance reveal cost of council spending on celebrity Christmas appearances

Embargoed: 00.01 Monday 23 December 2019


Research by the TaxPayers' Alliance has revealed that a small number of local authorities spent over £310,000 on celebrities to turn on Christmas lights between 2016-2017 and 2018-2019The overall cost is likely to be far higher, because the responsibility for hosting often falls upon local town or parish councils, which were not asked for information.

Musical acts, including X Factor contestants, were paid the most for Christmas light switch-on events, with 36 individuals or bands being paid a total of £194,588

Notable spending on switch-on events included Chelmsford council forking out £22,000 on entertainers, such as TV personality Denise van Outen. St Helens council also spent £6,650 on fees for bands and celebrities, including reality TV personality Amy Childs, while Oldham council coughed up £3,295 for an appearance by children's TV characters The Clangers. 

Four local councils spent more than £20,000 on these celebrity Christmas light switch-ons. Perth and Kinross council topped the tree by spending a remarkable £155,250 on celebrities between 2016-2017 and 2018-2019. This included the likes of Pixie Lott, James Arthur, Professor Green and Alesha Dixon.

Around 9 in 10 of the councils who responded reported zero spending on celebrities, showing that it is possible for councils to run these switch-ons as good value community events, at no cost to hard-pressed local taxpayers.

Click here to read the research paper

Key findings

  • Between 2016-2017 and 2018-2019 local authorities in the UK spent more than £310,000 on celebrities turning on Christmas lights, an average of over £100,000 a year.

  • Musical acts including X Factor contestants and finalists were paid the most between 2016-2017 and 2018-2019 for Christmas light switch-on events, with 36 individuals or bands being paid a total of £194,588.

  • Between 2016-2017 and 2018-2019, Perth and Kinross council spent the most on celebrities to switch on their Christmas lights with £155,250.

  • Four local authorities spent more than £20,000 on their light switch-on events from 2016-17 to 2018-19.

  • The £155,250 Perth and Kinross council spent was equivalent to the council tax bill of 130 band D households.

  • Of the local authorities who responded, 93 per cent reported a zero spend on celebrities for this event, showing many are already able to run these switch-ons as good value community events.

Click here to read the research paper

Harry Fone, grassroots campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:

“Councils claiming to be cash-strapped should not be gifting taxpayers' money to showbiz agents for Christmas celebrity payoffs.

"Christmas lights are meant to bring the community together, not offer celebs the chance to pocket bumper appearance fees at residents' expense. It's ridiculous that TV stars are being paid big sums to flick a switch, when many local heroes would love to be asked and would happily turn on the festive lights at no cost.

"With so many community champions willing to give back to their towns, councils should only get guests who are happy to be there, not TV personalities on flying visit, only in it for a payday."


TPA spokesmen are available for live and pre-recorded broadcast interviews via 07795 084 113 (no texts)

Media contact:

Sam Packer
Media Campaign Manager, TaxPayers' Alliance
[email protected]
24-hour media hotline: 07795 084 113 (no texts)

  1. Founded in 2004 by Matthew Elliott and Andrew Allum, and now with 80,000 supporters, the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) fights to reform taxes, reduce spending and protect taxpayers. Find out more about the TaxPayers' Alliance at www.taxpayersalliance.com.
  2. TaxPayers' Alliance's advisory council.
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