THERE are still 98 shopping days to go until Christmas — but the festive season appears to have started early in Bolton.

Council chiefs have begun installing Christmas lights more than three months before the big day, both in the town centre and throughout the borough.

Officers say it is because new displays have been ordered, which will not be delivered until November, so the council has had to start the process early.

A spokesman for Bolton Council said: “Bolton has begun the process of putting up its Christmas lights in readiness for the festive period, and this year will see a host of new displays in the town centre.

“As these new displays will not be arriving until November, we have had to reorganise the order in which the lights are put up around the borough.

“While we are currently putting up what town centre lights we already have and intend to use this year, the display will not be complete until the new lights arrive.

“Traditionally, the town centre lights go up first, followed by the districts of Westhoughton, Horwich, Farnworth and Little Lever.

“This year, however, we have begun the process by putting up some of Westhoughton’s lights first.”

The early installation has caused bemusement and irritation.

Cllr David Wilkinson represents Westhoughton South on Bolton Council, where lights have been put up in Cricketers Way, Wigan Road and Mill Street.

He said: “I just think it is a joke. It just makes a mockery of the Christmas lights. If we have to put something up in September for December there is something really amiss.

“I think it is ridiculous that we have to start putting up Christmas lights three months before Christmas. It is a farce. They might as well turn them on while they are at it.”

Bolton Council is not the only organisation to start preparing for Christmas — the town’s supermarkets are already selling festive goodies. Sainsbury’s and Tesco have confirmed they have mince pies and other Christmas items on sale, while Asda sells mince pies all year round.