Ripon is set to spend up to £20,000 on celebrations to mark next year’s Diamond Jubilee.
City councillors have begun plans for a series of events, starting with a themed red, white and blue firework display on New Year’s Eve and culminating in a day of celebrations on the market square on the Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend.
Monday, June 4 will see the Market Place closed to traffic with fairground rides and performances on the square, if the proposals go ahead.
Plans are also underway for a formal civic service in Ripon Cathedral on Sunday, June 3 and a street celebration taking place on Kirkgate on Saturday, June 2.
Earlier in the year, February will see the city decked out in Union Jacks to mark the date of the Queen’s accession, and organisers hope to stage a special three-hour peal of bells from the cathedral on February 6.
The celebrations will also encompass the London Olympics, said Coun Andrew Williams, who is on the planning committee for the celebrations.
“The chances of a Diamond Jubilee or London Olympics happening in any of our lifetimes are remote, and it is especially rare for them to both happen in the same year.
“We want to put on a programme of events to attract more visitors to Ripon, and we want to people to enjoy themselves and have something to look forward to in difficult economic times.”
Part of the funding for the events – around £6,000 – will come from funds put aside by the council over the last four years for this purpose, with the rest coming from council reserves, to be paid back “over a period of time” Coun Williams said.
The £20,000 budget is the maximum that could be spent, he added, and organisers hope to attract enough sponsorship from local businesses to make some events self-funding.
Organisers hope to present city primary school children with a commemorative mug, which will also be sold through the year to help fund celebrations.
“It’s been reported that one in three town centres are now not viable, and Ripon is to some extent in the balance. We want to do what we can to draw people from the rural hinterland in to Ripon, so they get used to coming to Ripon on a regular basis and using the shops here,” he added
The city council recently announced a 35 percent rise in the parish precept – the equivalent of a 20p a week rise in council tax bills for band D properties – to pay for a new city manager tasked with boosting the city’s ailing economy.
Ripon MP Julian Smith welcomed the news, but warned the council needs to be more open about its finances before taxpayers will stump up more money.
“I have been clear that Ripon needs to come together and act together to improve the city’s economy. That is why I hosted a meeting at Fountains Abbey earlier this month.
“One of my messages is that it is up to city leaders, such as the city council, to come up with a clear vision and strategy for the future and make decisions on the best ways to make that happen – I am pleased to see action has already been taken.
“However, it is also important that the city council is fully transparent about spending. I again urge them to publish a clear picture of its income and its expenditure together with details of its reserves. It is vitally important that taxpayers are given full transparency before being asked to pay more”.
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