A canopy of fireworks lighting up the Birmingham skyline on New Year's Eve will be as good as anything staged at the Sydney Opera House, the city's political and business leaders have promised.
Revellers will be able to enjoy a spectacular display as midnight approaches, with a £35,000 explosion of pyrotechnical wizardry.
The biggest firework set in the Midlands will be launched from four locations, enabling anyone in the city centre to watch the free event.
Representatives from the city council's controlling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition and city centre traders yesterday backed a decision to scrap the traditional New Year's Eve festival at Millennium Point, which they branded a waste of money.
The council will save £200,000 by not staging the party, all of which will be spent on an extended programme of events over the Christmas period. The decision has already attracted £100,000 in commercial sponsorship.
Cabinet regeneration member Ken Hardeman said fewer than 5,000 people were at Millennium Point on New Year's Eve 2004 to watch girl band Bananarama who were paid £17,000. Only when the live entertainment finished did the numbers rise to 15,000, as people arrived to enjoy the fireworks.
Coun Hardeman ( Con Brandwood), who denied the council was being " Scroogelike", said: "The event at Millennium Point was uneconomic, it is as simple as that. It doesn't make sense to spend a lot of money on something that people don't want to see.
"The fireworks will be fantastic, equally as good as Sydney."
He pointed out that most of the events planned would be free, including the fireworks, a pantomime horse grand national and a reindeer and lantern parade. There will be a £5 entry charge to Santa's Grotto in Chamberlain Square, which attracted 27,000 visitors last year.
Jonathan Cheetham, chairman of the Birmingham City Centre Partnership, said businesses were fully behind the council's decision.
As many as 400,000 people were expected to enjoy the Christmas festivities, which will begin with the lights switch on on November 12 - pop group Girls Aloud will be paid £12,000 to press the switch.
Bands typically increase their fees four-fold to perform live on New Year's Eve, according to the council. The cost of hiring Girls Aloud to play at Millennium Point would have been £75,000, a scrutiny committee was told.
The decision to cancel the Millennium Point party has not pleased Labour councillors, who claim the fireworks will only cater for people wealthy enough to visit clubs, bars and restaurants on New Year's Eve.
Coun Penny Holbrook (Lab Stockland Green) said: "If you have enough money to come into the city centre, and it costs about £40 to get into a club on New Year's Eve, then that's fine. You get a free firework display.
"But for the people who can't afford to come in, then sod you. It is completely unacceptable."