Budget worries leave a prickly Xmas problem

Falkirk Delivers has rubbished claims it intends to have a mural painted on this gable end
Falkirk Delivers has rubbished claims it intends to have a mural painted on this gable end

Cash-conscious town centre bosses have scrapped plans to deliver some festive cheer to local businesses this Christmas.

Falkirk Delivers, which is in charge of the Business Improvement District (BID) strategy to promote the town centre, has decided not to spend £4500 providing its 218 members with traditional holly balls to decorate their premises on the run up to December 25.

But it has denied claims some of the saving will be used to have a mural painted on the gable end of a building next to the Trinity Church on the High Street and insisted all the money will be used to advertise Falkirk as the place to visit between now and the big day.

Three years of reduced funding from Falkirk Council is being blamed for the move to re-think its investment plans.

Falkirk Delivers manager Alex Fleming said: “Our budget has effectively been cut by 66 per cent since 2015. While we have managed to meet our obligations and not lose any projects, some have had to be pared back and we reached the stage where something had to give.

“The board of directors had a hard decision to take because we know the traders loved the holly balls, but we believe at Christmas time it’s far more important to market Falkirk as a Christmas destination, encourage people to come and shop here and support our retailers at a time that is crucial for them.”

Mrs Fleming also confirmed the idea of a mural is something being considered, but will not be moved forward as a possible project until January at the earliest.

She said: “The Scottish Government has annouced 2018 as the Year of Young People and that’s something Falkirk Delivers as a Business Improvement District would like to be involved with.

“Very early discussions among the Falkirk Delivers team have taken place but unlikely to go to the board before the start of the year.

“This would be something that would only be possible if it could secure independent funding, but as a board we would be interested in looking at it because it fits with our focus to deliver projects and services as agreed by town centre businesses in 2016 which we know the people of the district appreciate.”

Falkirk Delivers Business Improvement District came out of the former town centre management company in 2008 and is a not-for-profit organisation. Its board of directors is made up of town centre businesses representing the retail, hospitality, media, transport and financial services as well as Falkirk Council.

The company is funded by a levy payment from town centre businesses based on the rateable value of their property. Over and above this levy, it has has succesfully won funding from a variety of sources over the years to deliver improvements aimed at making the town centre a better place to visit, shop, work and invest.

But critics have labelled it an “anomaly” which is out of touch with the business community at large, is led by a board which spends money on what it thinks money needs to be spent on and is not accountable to the businesses it is happy to take money from.