The Christmas lights switch-on is an annual opportunity for communities to gather together and bring in the festive season.
While these are community events, councils sometimes turn to celebrities to add some glamour, meaning a cost to the taxpayer for the fees of TV “stars”. This note shows that over £300,000 was spent between 2016 and 2019 by larger local authorities on celebrities to turn on Christmas lights. It is important to note that this figure is likely to be far higher because in many instances the responsibility for hosting this event falls upon local town or parish councils, which were not asked for information.
Councils should ask celebrities to donate their time to help bring communities together. Alternatively, they should ask valued members of the community to turn on Christmas lights, at no cost to local taxpayers and to celebrate local achievements.
- Between 2016-2017 and 2018-2019 local authorities in the UK spent more than £310,000 on celebrities turning on Christmas lights.
- Between 2016-2017 and 2018-2019, Perth and Kinross council spent the most on celebrities to switch on their Christmas lights with £155,250. These included the singers James Arthur, Fleur East and Alesha Dixon.
Four local authorities spent more than £20,000 on their light switch-on events from 2016-2017 to 2018-2019.
- 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.
- 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.