Belfast Telegraph

'Scrooge' council is rapped for spending cut on festive events

By Victoria Leonard

A Northern Ireland council has been accused of behaving "like Scrooge" after voting to slash the number of Christmas trees across the borough from 22 to four.

The cost-saving move, approved by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, means that 17 villages and one town which previously received Christmas trees will lose out from next year.

Only Antrim, Ballyclare, Glengormley and Randalstown will receive a festive fir and hold a lights switch-on next year as the council seeks to halve its Christmas events spend from around £460,000 to £230,000.

An amendment tabled by Alliance's Billy Webb requesting a review to consider giving Crumlin a Christmas tree and a council-funded lights switch-on event was defeated.

Deputy chairman of Templepatrick Action Group Bill McAvoy branded the council's actions "mean" and said they would "suck the joy out of the Christmas spirit".

"The installation of Templepatrick's Christmas tree and the lights switch-on signals the start of the festive season," he said.

"This news is terribly disappointing, especially for children.

"Last Friday we had our Christmas lights switch-on, which was attended by around 300 children and choirs from three local churches.

"It is one of only two events during the year when the entire community can come together. We didn't know at the time that it would be our last.

"It seems to be a bit Scrooge-like. This will irritate people - the council aren't doing themselves any favours."

Sinn Fein councillor Annemarie Logue said she had requested a call-in over the council's rejection of Mr Webb's amendment to revise the budget to determine if Crumlin could get a tree.

"I am appalled at the council's decision," she said.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council said it agreed to reduce its Christmas event expenditure by 50% in light of an expenditure review caused by a £1m rates refund due to Belfast International Airport.

She added that the 2018 Christmas programme would "continue to include other key community events such as tea dances, carol services, and the increasingly popular Enchanted Winter Gardens event".

"The council is committed to the delivery of its 2017 Christmas programme, which is continuing as planned," the council added.

"Groups in the borough will also be able to continue to apply under the community festivals fund programme for Christmas activities in the future."

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