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TORFAEN: Christmas tree ‘grinches’

Torfaen Civic Centre in Pontypool

A COUNCIL which has axed all but one Christmas tree in the community it covers has been branded “Grinches”.

The only tree that Pontypool Community Council has provided this year is the large one that has traditionally been stood outside the town’s Memorial Gates entrance to Pontypool Park.

Giles Davies is an independent councillor for Abersychan on Torfaen County Borough Council. Picture: Supplied.

But that has angered borough councillor Giles Davies, as a tree is no longer being put up in Talywain, in his Abersychan ward, or other small communities and villages around the area.

The Torfaen Borough councillor has accused the community council – which he previously served on – of “stealing Christmas” on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, and posted a picture of Dr Seuss character the Grinch, who is determined to spoil Christmas with his criticism.Torfaen

The community council had agreed in December last year it would use savings it had already agreed from Christmas trees and lights to help fund the £37,500 salary costs of a new community development post to help community groups including to find funding.

A Christmas tree would normally be placed outside Talywain Senior Citizens Hall. Picture: Supplied

But Cllr Davies said he is disappointed at how the council has agreed to meet those costs. He said: “It may seem trivial but to other people it means a lot. It looks to me as if they’ve funded the new post by reducing the Christmas tree and lights budget to pay for it.

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“The area is a lot bigger than just Pontypool and we are also paying the precept costs to the council.

“They could cut down on other things. Do they need to spend on a twinning conference for the youth, or £2,500 for the chairman’s dinner? No matter how you dress it up it is still a free meal.

“I feel strongly people enjoy Christmas and it’s the little things that help the community, with the cost-of-living it brings a little bit of joy. We haven’t got much up here and one lady told me the one thing she looks forward to is going around and looking at the trees.”

Pontypool council leader Gaynor James dressed as ‘Mother Christmas’ with Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds. Picture: Supplied

However the leader of Pontypool Community Council Gaynor James, who is also a borough councillor, said the council pulled the plug on the community development post after its initial six month trial, that was funded from reserves, as Torfaen Borough Council and the volunteer alliance were funding a similar position.

The community council said it had been spending £25,000 on providing cut trees, and in the spring it will plant living Christmas trees, which can be decorated every year. There will also be a biodiversity benefit from new tree planting, and it said staff time was also taken up with reports of the trees being vandalised and as some had been stolen they also required security fencing.

The Christmas Cavalcade in Pontypool. Picture: Supplied

It said it spent more than £100,000 last year on Christmas lights, trees and the Cavalcade it organises in the town centre, and has now produced a questionnaire asking residents if they would agree with it spending more money on children and young people including youth clubs and the availability of play schemes.

Cllr James praised the community council’s staff for the events they have staged in the town centre over the past two weekends, which have included the Cavalcade and a Winter Wonderland event that featured an ice rink.

The Christmas Tree at the Memorial Gates in Pontypool. Picture: Supplied

Cllr James, dressed as ‘Mother Christmas’ for the events and said the council handed out nearly 700 selection boxes to children: “All the community council thinks about is doing things for the community and members and staff work really, really hard. When we put events on they bring literally thousands of people into town and they are free as people haven’t got any money.”

Due to the council no longer providing a tree in his ward Cllr Davies said he will provide a £60 first place prize and £40 second prize, from his own pocket, for the best outdoor Christmas decorations in his ward.