COMMUNITY groups have been asked to “take ownership” of events in St Helens after the council announced it will pull funding.

St Helens Council will cut its events programme after the current financial year as it tries to claw back £20.6 million by 2020.

The council will continue to fund events throughout 2018 – which includes its 150-year anniversary celebrations and the Christmas lights switch-on – but will cease financial support from next year.

A spokesman for the council said: “The council has financially supported events that help maintain a vibrant town centre.

“In response to over £90 million of budget reduction (2010 to 2020) and increased pressure on adult care and vulnerable children services, the events programme was reviewed in 2017 and a decision made to discontinue that financial support after 2018.

“It is hoped that local organisations and community groups may take ownership of such events and they may potentially require the public to buy tickets.”

Martin Blondel, secretary at the Steve Prescott Foundation, said the charity would be interested in supporting the Christmas lights switch-on in the future.

However, he said the charity does not think doing so would be “feasible” at present.

“The Steve Prescott Foundation would like to support any event that has St Helens interests at heart, the same as the 10K, the triathlon and the Pride of St Helens Awards,” Mr Blondel said.

“We would consider supporting the Christmas lights switch-on but at this time we don’t think it is feasible.”

Last week the council came under fire after a Daily Telegraph investigation revealed council chiefs spent £82,300 on celebrity guests for its Christmas lights switch-on over the past four years.

In 2014 the council paid £10,000 for The Lightning Seeds and £15,000 for Scouting for Girls, and forked out £14,000 for the former Girls Aloud singer, Nadine Coyle in 2015.

Nineties boy band Five topped the bill in 2017.

The council’s decision to cease funding the lights switch-on and other events is the latest in a long list of cost-cutting measures.

The school crossing patrol service will be axed from August – with some schools already left without patrols as reported in the Star– and the park Ranger service is also expected to be cut.

On Wednesday, councillors will meet to discuss its controversial three-weekly bin collection pilot in an effort to help save £1.4 million over seven years.

This is in addition to a council tax rise of 5.99 per cent, the highest allowed by government.