'Even Scrooge would be outraged': Market Harborough Christmas Fayre organiser is 'disgusted' after being handed a £906 cleaning bill from the council

The organiser of Market Harborough Christmas Fayre has rapped the district council for charging her £906 for street cleaning.

Thursday, 5th December 2019, 11:47 am
Updated Thursday, 5th December 2019, 2:06 pm
The Harborough District Council offices.

Juliette Maher hit out as she prepares to stage this year’s high-profile festive event in Harborough town centre tomorrow night (Friday December 6).

She branded the controversial move “disgusting” – and said the money would have been donated to local charities.

Juliette, who’s helped run the iconic Christmas celebration formerly known as Late Night Shopping since 2014, told the Harborough Mail: “It’s disgusting – a total disgrace.

“The council was originally going to charge me £1300, which would have been even worse.

“We didn’t have to pay a penny last year, it was free.

“So why have we got to fork out all this money now?”

The stunned full-time Harborough office administrator said she received the sudden demand for payment about 10 days ago.

“It was a bombshell and came totally out of the blue.

“I lead a team of eight volunteers and we all give up so much time and effort to make the Christmas Fayre happen,” said Juliette, of Stuart Road, Harborough.

“I couldn’t believe it when I got an email from the council’s waste management unit asking for over £1300 for cleaning the streets.

“I was fuming – and still am.

“I was also told that the fee had to be paid by last Wednesday.

“A local councillor intervened on our behalf and officers agreed to cut the charge to £906.

“But it still beggars belief.

“Talk about bah humbug, even Scrooge would be outraged.”

She said she’s been forced to pay up out of a back-up fund used for emergencies.

“As well as putting on a show that Harborough can be proud of we donate about £1000 to local charities.

“This year we hoped to support the Toys on the Table appeal as well as the Scouts and Sea Cadets, who’ll be helping out on the night,” said Juliette.

“So we’ve launched an online crowdfunding campaign to help raise that money.

“We bring about 10,000 people into the town centre from all over the region for the three-hour event from 6pm-9pm.

“We’ll have reindeer, a Winter Wonderland, stilt walkers, Elsa and Anna from Frozen and Mickey and Minnie Mouse as well as so much more.

“It’s a brilliant feelgood event, mums, dads and kids all love it and we showcase all that’s best about Market Harborough.

“A lot of people here are very angry about this and can’t understand why the council’s making us pay out.

“This has put a big black cloud over the entire night and left a bad taste in the mouth.”

Cllr Phil Knowles, leader of the council’s opposition, said: “I intervened once I became aware of this and managed to secure a substantial reduction for the organisers.

“I have total empathy with them because the Christmas Fayre is a real boon for the town.

“It’s something we all look forward to enjoying every year.”

Megan Smith, the council’s contract support and trade waste officer, told Juliette by email: “We need to ensure that the town is clean and to a high standard before and after the event takes place.

“Therefore due to the increased footfall this event will bring, this requires us to increase our street cleansing services.

“As quoted, we will need to provide these services to adhere to our grading of the town centre.”

She added: “An operative working throughout the event is needed, as they will litter pick the area which benefits the clean-up operation after the event and we operate on a minimum of 12 wheeled bins; as the volume of the waste within the town will be increased.

“This is based on what we provide to other events that happen in the town, such as the Market Harborough Food and Drink festival operated by HDC, Arts Fresco etc.

“Unfortunately, I am unable to review the services quoted and this will be the charge required if you wish to go ahead with the event.

“We will need payment by Wednesday 27th November 2019.”

If you would like to support the Christmas Fayre’s crowdfunding appeal please visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/christmasfayreA Harborough council spokesman said: “Any event organiser is requested to make arrangements for cleaning up after the event and ensuring that any waste generated is disposed of correctly.

“As a council we have to cover the costs of the clean-up to ensure these costs are not passed on to taxpayers across the district.

“This is the case for all events, for example Arts Fresco, Classic Car Show, and both summer and winter food and drink festivals, whether run by the council, charity or private company.”

He added: “It is important we are fair and consistent for all.

“Our contractor will charge a set rate for the service dependant on the type of event that is running.

“For example, any events with food will automatically generate more waste.

“In 2017, Harborough District Council provided the Christmas Fayre event with a £5,000 grant under the proviso this money was used to ensure the event became sustainable going forward without relying on council subsidies.

“There has been ample opportunity to do this.

“We are therefore disappointed the organisers continue to be critical of the council despite the support given to this event.

“We have invited the organiser of this event to meet with us in the new year so we can understand how this grant has been used and to seek clarity regarding the financing of this event.”