AN eleven year-old schoolgirl performed one of the brightest tasks this year, officially switching on the new Christmas lights for Northallerton.

Over the past 18 months the town council has battled to transform the town's lights with a £19,000 investment. Mayor councillor David Richardson said this year more than any other the council wanted to bring a big Christmas boost to the town.

To perform the vital switch on and as an apology, the council asked Martha McQuaker, from Brompton School to carry out the ceremony. The youngster had won a competition for the design of a Christmas light run by the town council but amid problems this year it had not been ordered.

Councillor Caroline Young said it was a way of saying sorry to Martha. Cllr Young added: "We were so pleased that Martha could turn on the lights, although she won the competition for the Christmas design for one of the lights there were problems over the order, but we are determined that next year we will include her design, and by way of apology we wanted to ask her to perform the official switch on at All Saints Church.

"It is hoped that after a difficult year of Covid-19 and after many things had to be cancelled that the new lights will bring some real festive cheer to our town. We have been working on this with North Yorkshire County Council for 18 months."

There had been concerns over the budget for the lights at the town council's virtual meeting.

Cllr Richardson said because of new technology it is hoped the new lights will help save £6,500. "Although they will be on all the time it will be cheaper because of the new technology," he added.

Councillor Graham Cullen said £19,000 was way above the approved budget for new lights. Cllr Richardson said money had been put forward by businesses and from Community Infrastructure Levy funds as well as money not spent on the bonfire, which had had to be cancelled along with the traditional Santa Sunday.

"The intention is to give the town a lift this Christmas in the light of what has been happening this year and amid the difficulties for everyone," added Cllr Richardson.