The high price you're paying to hire Z-list celebrities for Christmas light switch-ons

Cost can run into thousands

Updated: 

Ella Shaw

A small fortune has been paid to Z-list celebrities for turning on Christmas lights across Britain.

Bosses at hard-up councils spent at least £171,000 on so-called stars.

Four-figure sums were given to reality TV contestants, soap actors, former pop stars and kids' TV characters.

Blackburn with Darwen Council paid X Factor 2014 winner Ben Haenow £6,500, pop duo Phats and Small £2,500 and CBeebies presenter Mr Bloom £2,500 – hiring all three acts as part of its £50,000 Christmas programme.

Renfrewshire Council paid £12,000 to book rock band Ash plus £4,000 for other musicians.

£12,000 - rock band Ash

Credits: Publicity Picture

Singer-songwriter Ryan Lawrie, sixth in 2016's The X-Factor, was hired by both East Ayrshire Council and Hyndburn Borough Council.

It is not known how much he earned, but East Ayrshire spent £4,850 on performers while Hyndburn, in Lancs, shelled out £7,995 on Lawrie and Sam Lavery, another X Factor star, plus BGT's Ella Shaw.

£7,995 - X Factor's Sam Lavery

Credits: Newcastle Chronicle

St Helens Council paid £5,000 to boy band 5ive while Oldham Council splashed out the same sum on Finnish singer Saara Aalto – second in last year's X Factor.

Coronation Street actor Antony Cotton, who plays Sean Tully, was handed £2,400 by Chorley Council in Lancs while North West Leicestershire Council paid a Steps Tribute act £1,100 for its switch-on.

£6,500 - 2014 X Factor winner Ben Haenow

Credits: Ayrshire Post

The Daily Mirror sent Freedom of Information requests to around 470 local authorities asking about the cost of their celebration events.

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Some councils refused to answer, including Stockport Metropolitan Borough, which hired S Club Party, Celebrity Big Brother 's Amelia Lily and X Factor contestant Lucy Spraggan.

£5,000 - boyband 5ive

Credits: Publicity Picture

Perth & Kinross Council, which secured the services of popular bands including Boyzlife and East 17, also failed to disclose the total cost of its celebration to taxpayers.

Many other councils switched on their Christmas lights for free, by asking the Mayor to push the button followed by performances from local bands.

£5,000 - X Factor finalist Saara Alto

Credits: Manchester Evening News

John O'Connell, of the TaxPayers' Alliance said: "Turning on the lights in town centres can be a great way of bringing people together to celebrate.

"However, at a time when councils are cutting back on other services, they can't justify giving vast amounts of taxpayers money to Z-list celebrities.

"If we are ever going to live within our means then wasteful spending like this must be cut out."

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