Rector criticises Christmas lights plan

A CHURCH of England clergyman has accused bureaucrats of behaving like “Scrooge” in calling for the plug to be pulled on Christmas lights funding.Rev Edward Rennard, team rector in Halesworth and the Blyth Valley, said acceptance of the recommendation - put forward by officers of Waveney District Council - would paint the authority “in a bad light” and was “ungracious and small-minded”.

By David Green

A CHURCH of England clergyman has accused bureaucrats of behaving like “Scrooge” in calling for the plug to be pulled on Christmas lights funding.

Rev Edward Rennard, team rector in Halesworth and the Blyth Valley, said acceptance of the recommendation - put forward by officers of Waveney District Council - would paint the authority “in a bad light” and was “ungracious and small-minded”.

A council report due to be discussed by the council's executive on Thursday suggests that the annual £10,000 budget to help local towns with Christmas lights display should be cut by 50% next year and then phased out altogether.


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The report states that giving financial support for celebrations at Christmas - a Christian festival - “does not fit well with the council's core values of equality and diversity”.

This year 13 schemes have benefited from Christmas lights grants - including those at Bungay, Beccles, Halesworth, Southwold, Wangford with Henham, Westhall, Wrentham, Ashby, Herringfleet and Somerleyton, Bungay and Kessingland.

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And Rev Kennard said district councillors would be ill-advised to abandon their grants for Christmas lights.

“An acceptance of the recommendation would put the council in a bad light that it can ill afford,” he said.

Someone in the council had a limited understanding of “the core values of equality and diversity”, he claimed.

“To support the majority of electors, who come from a Christian heritage, in no way challenges the rights of other groups,” Rev Rennard added.

“If the council could find a Buddhist, Jew, Hindu or Moslem who objects to a town keeping a cultural tradition that has its roots in Christianity, I would be very surprised.”

In the 2001 census 74.3% of people in the Waveney District Council area had put down “Christian” as their religion.

Rev Rennard said: “A minority of people - a large minority at Christmas - go to church but almost everyone, of all faiths and none, accepts that the Christmas season speaks powerfully of peace, reconciliation and hope - all badly needed in people's lives today.

“Christmas and its message is not dependent on Christmas lights, but to chip away at symbols that represent anything remotely spiritual shows ungraciousness and small-mindedness.”

He acknowledged that Waveney had to spend council tax revenue with care.

“But do not do a Scrooge on us and make the mistake of believing that only the material and the concrete is of value. Spiritual values count,” he added.

There was no-one available yesterday to comment on behalf of the district council.

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