Ray of light for weather station

MORECAMBE could once again be listed in national newspapers as the sunniest place in Britain.

But light from the annual festival of fireworks and music will not be falling on the resort any time soon.

And there's better news for Lancaster Castle which could soon be re-illuminated and the brass band concerts in Happy Mount Park which may be reinstated.

Lancaster City Council is looking to reinstate readings from the Morecambe weather station, floodlighting of Lancaster Castle and continuing the brass band concerts after finding out last week it was 354,000 better off than first thought.

Readings at the weather station were scaled down earlier this year as a result of 'budgetary pressures'.

This meant national newspapers, which carry daily figures from other towns and cities across the country, cut Morecambe from its columns.

Andrew Wilson, who has campaigned for the service to be reinstated, said the weather figures were "hundreds of thousands of pounds of free publicity".

"The readings give More-cambe an excellent profile and make it very attractive to tourists and businesses alike," he said. "I know people who come here because they've seen the number of sunshine hours in one of the national newspapers. It's excellent news that the council has finally seen sense."

There is, however, a catch. While the city council will continue to maintain the station it is up to a local organisation or business to take the readings.

In return they will be given a "small honorarium" for their trouble.

Council leader Ian Barker said he remained "unconvinced" at the value of the figures but was willing to reinstate readings in partnership with local people.

"It is said that the weather reports in some national newspapers were of great value to Morecambe tourism," he said.

"I have to say I remain unconvinced. However, it seems appropriate to offer concerned businesses the chance to enter into a partnership with the council to reinstate the readings. I suggest that the council continues to maintain the weather station but offers a small honorarium to any local organisation that is prepared to take readings and send them to the Meteorological Office."

Coun Barker will be asking for the readings to be reinstated at a meeting of the authority's cabinet next week.

At the same time he will ask for money to fund a season of concerts in Happy Mount Park and for floodlighting at Lancaster Castle and other public buildings.

There will not, however, be any money to reinstate the Festival of Light and Water despite calls from the town's MP, Geraldine Smith, to do so.

Last week she appealed for some of the additional 354,000 – which is made up from increased support from the government – to be used to reinstate the festival.

Coun Barker, however, added that he was only prepared to make "modest" changes to the budget and while he could find "a few thousand" he couldn't manage "tens of thousands".

"The additional money the council will receive as a result of Gordon Brown's pre-budget statement combined with the savings we are predicting means that we should hit our target of keeping next year's council tax rise down to five per cent or less," he said.

"But we still need to find efficiency savings if we are to do the same in 2006/7 and 2007/8. Nevertheless, it is pleasing to be able to ease up just a little."