Sunshine is off-budget

AN ATTEMPT to persuade the council to reintroduce the 'sunshine hours' service was rejected last week.

However, a suggestion to restore the twice-daily reading through private sponsorship was welcomed at Wed-nesday's full council meeting.

Local retired journalist Andrew Wilson asked the council if they would 'accept sponsorship of the weather service this year from any local firm, organisation or group so that the full service to the Met Office, the Press and the nation can be resumed/restored as soon as possible?'.

Council Leader Ian Barker replied: "If it is at no cost to the council then it is something I would welcome."

Morecambe's sunshine statistics have for years been included in national weather tables, but the service was effectively stopped in June with the withdrawal of funding for a 5pm reading previously taken by council staff.

Only a 9am monitoring remains and that is insufficient for national media recognition.

Morecambe often comes top or near the top of the national sunshine hours table and the resort has often been described as 'the sunniest place in Britain'.

Andrew Wilson said that a Met Office spokesman told him 'It is always disappointing when a long-running record comes to a close, denying continuous records, al-though it is obviously a decision that is out of our hands'.

Weather records have been kept daily by the council since 1896, and from 1915 these have been sent to the Met Office for their use.

Opportunity

Speaking at the council chamber last Wednesday, Mr Wilson said: "I think the council is missing a glorious opportunity here that could earn it, and the area, far more than the 2,400 nominally saved by reducing its weather service.

"The council is missing out on a marvellous opportunity to continue to publicise to the nation the wonderful sunshine hours that we have here – information which could even now be attracting more visitors, tourists, residents and businesses to the area, inward investment which the council so clearly wants.

"We used to say in the newspaper world that a mention in the national newspapers was worth tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of pounds in advertising.

"With the council's weather statistics, particularly the sunshine hours, you have a golden opportunity to generate that sort of publicity free – publicity for which others would give their right arm."

In response Coun Barker said: "I don't believe the decision to visit Morecambe is made on the basis of what the weather was yesterday.

"Most of the national papers also have the weather forecast on the same page and I think that is more use to a spur-of-the-moment visitor.

"It is not clear that we have the staffing resources to do this twice a day at 9am and 5pm, seven days a week.

"We need to show prudence and discipline and setting aside budget savings shows neither."