STRUGGLING traders in Stone were given a £5,000 boost when civic leaders voted unanimously to shoulder the costs for nearly 90 hanging baskets that adorn the high street throughout the summer months.
Independent Stone Town Councillor Rob Kenny proposed the cost of the traditional floral display came from the council’s coffers this year instead of out of the pockets of traders facing hard times on the high street.
“Our high street is struggling,” said Councillor Rob Kenney. “We are very limited in what we can do to help. We can’t give them reductions in their rent or rates. The only thing we can do is to help bring people into the town.
“I would like to propose that for this year we pay for the hanging baskets in the high street.”
Councillor Kenny said 84 of the baskets, provided by Stafford Borough Council’s Street Scene Team, would cost around £5,000, but it might be possible to get a better price if the approach was made by the town council.
“We spend a lot of money each year for the Christmas lights and the switch on and that’s only a six week event really,” he said. “The hanging baskets are there for four months and they make Stone a very, very attractive place to come to.”
Councillor Joyce Farnham asked whether it would be possible to pay a contribution instead and suggested paying half the costs for the baskets.
But Councillor Jill Hood said businesses were having a hard time and it was up to the council to do what they could to ensure the shops were maintained for everyone in the town.
She said: “If we say we are only going to part fund it I know some shops who will say ‘no, I just can’t afford that’.”
Councillor Hood said the baskets helped brighten the high street for events like the food and drink festival, enticing tourists to the town and give people a reason to tell their friends to visit the ‘beautiful’ town.
“If we pay for them, we can distribute them evenly throughout the high street,” said Councillor Kenny. “It doesn’t matter where they are hanging really, they’re for the whole high street.
“£5,000 might seem like a lot of money, but you have to remember that last year we put £3,000 into our reserves and spent it on nothing.”