CHRISTMAS parades and public firework displays are being cancelled or put at risk by increased licence fees introduced by East Lothian Council.

Community councils which put on annual free events for local residents have had to scrap traditional free celebrations because they have become too expensive.

East Lothian Council says it does give discounts to charitable events and works with organisers to try and reduce the cost.

But it says the council has a responsibility to recoup costs and says organisers should factor the expenses into the entry fees. However, many of the popular community events organised are free to the public.

In Cockenzie and Port Seton, the community’s annual fireworks display is going ahead but the community council chairman has warned it is likely to be the last year it will be held.

The free display is only going ahead because Inch Cape Offshore Limited, which has struck a deal to build a substation on part of the site of the former Cockenzie Power Station, agreed to sponsor it and it would be held there.

Bryan Hickman,  chairman of Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Council, said that the Christmas parade, which traditionally sees Santa travel through the village before the lights are officially switched on, had been cancelled.

He said: “This year we have changed our Christmas lights switch-on so that we don’t have a parade. This has been done to simplify things, there will be no need for any traffic regulation orders or licences.

“We are still having a fireworks event but it may be the last one unless we get further sponsorship.

“We now have to pay VAT as well as various licences. This makes it cost-prohibitive going forward.”

In neighbouring Prestonpans, the Christmas parade was replaced with a party in the Town Hall last year. The parade will not go ahead this year after the town’s community council was told it would have to pay £180 to close the road and faced an additional premium charge to its public liability insurance.

A spokesperson for Prestonpans Community Council said: “Any fundraising we are doing to improve our Christmas lights then becomes futile if we are having substantial costs to bear beforehand.”

Concern about the impact of council charges on community events saw the council’s policy and performance review committee call for a report to be placed before councillors at a future meeting.

A spokesperson for East Lothian Council said that it supported many community groups and organisations in delivering events and pointed to community council funding they are granted to prioritise spending.

They said: “In putting on any public event, the event organiser becomes responsible for the safety of the event and the participants and all associated costs.

“They often charge attendees for entry to the event so they can build in the costs of the licences/TTROs etc into their event budget and charging arrangements.

“East Lothian Council is required to make sure that costs are recovered for works carried out to facilitate any event and recommends any event organiser to get in touch if they are unsure about their requirements.

“Council staff often work with organisations to help reduce costs, where possible teams do try to reduce the need for cost and charges to arise.”