NIGEL THORNTON: Great tree, terrible decision

Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

I like it, no seriously, I do, I like it a lot. The new Christmas tree in Cathedral Square is eye-catchingly and strikingly modern.

It’s also an absolute disgrace.

Whenever my three-year-old daughter sees something sparkly or shiny on the telly or in the shops she says she wants it.

Most times I have to tell her she can’t have it. There may be different reasons but one recurring one is cost.

I don’t like disappointing her, but sometimes I have to be the parent.

So when the “child’’ at the city council said they wanted the new Christmas tree complete with an eye-watering price tag of £40,000 where was the “parent’’ to say ‘no’?

Peterborough City Council and more importantly, me and you, can’t afford it.

And so it’s irrelevant whether, like me, you like it, or, like lots of Peterborough council taxpayers, hate it.

With immaculate timing within days of the council writing a cheque for £40,000 for what is in essence an over-sized trinket it was announcing how it was going to cut another £19million from its budget.

That inevitably means reducing services that help children, the ill and the elderly.

The council might argue that £40,000 wouldn’t make much difference – and to be fair it wouldn’t even cover a sixth of the annual salary of more than a quarter of a million pounds the city council helped pay Sue Mitchell to be acting director of public health in 2013/14.

The council has naturally defended itself with a spokesman saying: “Previously we hired much of the Cathedral Square display and last year cost approximately £80,000.

“The council owns the new tree which cost around £40,000. As it will last for at least five years this represents a significant saving to the council.”

What utter, utter nonsense that response is.

Last year the council spent a small fortune on what by general consensus was a fantastic display in Cathedral Square.

It’s not doing that this year – hence the “saving’’.

Buying a £40,000 Christmas tree that will last five years does not represent a “significant saving’’.

Unless of course the council is seriously trying to suggest that it spends more than £8,000 on a real Christmas tree.

If it did that would be the biggest waste of money since the last biggest waste of money.

For a lot of people Christmas is all about traditions – roast turkey with all the trimmings , Morecambe and Wise repeats and the Queen’s speech on the telly... and real Christmas trees.

But one tradition we can do without is the council wasting our money.

Bah humbug

I get quite irritated by people who seem to think the annual John Lewis advert represents the true spirit of Christmas... everybody knows it’s that big Coca-Cola truck.

Not in my name

It’s no surprise that Tory Councillor Azher Iqbal defended himself after he was caught on film chanting for “Indian dogs to go back’’.

Cllr Iqbal was at a political rally protesting about the situation in Kashmir. He was not there, he pointed out, “in my capacity as a city councillor.’’

That’s okay then!

As a city councillor he represents the city... and, at least on this occasion, he was not making a very good job of it.

Not Marvell-ous

The stories of Robert Marvell and George Johnson were connected by Armistice Day and separated by just a few pages in last week’s Peterborough Telegraph.

But in terms of their contribution to humanity the two men couldn’t be further apart.

The ironically named Marvell was the thieving junkie scumbag who stole a poppy tin from the Great Northern Hotel just 30 minutes before the nation fell silent to honour the fallen.

Thirty minutes after the silence at Peterborough Crematorium the funeral began for Mr Johnson. He was a war hero who survived the horrors of Dunkirk and later was parachuted into Germany where he helped capture war criminals.

It’s hard to believe the two men are the same species.

Rubbish policy

Sometime ago the city council scrapped its free bulky waste collection. Hardly surprisingly, it wasn’t a popular decision across the city.

Although the good people of Millfield and New England aren’t complaining... because they still get it.

Only now it’s dressed up as a multi-agency week of action as part of Operation CAN-Do.

I’ve got an old bed I need to get rid of but I don’t know whether to pay to get it taken away or drive to Lincoln Road and dump it on the side of the street.

Diary Of A Bad Dad

When it comes to bedtime I’m either doing something terribly wrong or I’ve been conned. Bedtime in our house is a long way from how it’s portrayed in films and adverts. You’ve seen them - a tranquil room, gently lit, a calm and happy child drifting effortlessly to sleep even before dad gets to the end of the bedtime story. Not in our house.

Take last night, I was being chased by a hyperactive toddler armed with a yellow balloon that had been twisted into a shape approximating a giraffe. This “giraffe’’ had been named by Toddler T - but it wasn’t called George or Geraldine, no, it answered to the name of Eat The Meat (don’t ask). Eat (as he’s known to his friends) was also very aggressive, oh yes, and I almost forgot, had pink poo.

Finally, I calmed down Toddler T enough to get her into bed, but the bedtime book didn’t go down well.

Eat, Toddler T informed me, didn’t like the story. A point that was emphasised with Eat being bashed against my head. Eventually after the usual mix of threats, promises and downright begging, Toddler T hit her internal snooze button.But as I crept out of the room I swear that “giraffe’’ was giving me a “did you spill my drink’’ kind of look.