Facebook campaign forces Christmas tree improvement

The Christmas tree in Oakham High Street, 2014
The Christmas tree in Oakham High Street, 2014
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Councillors have acted quickly to improve Oakham’s Christmas decorations after more than 700 people backed an online campaign.

A group called Give Oakham the Christmas Tree it Deserves was set up on Facebook on Thursday last week.

Within six days more than 700 people had “liked” the page to back the group’s complaint about this year’s tree in High Street, pictured right. The tree is provided by the Rotary Club of Rutland, while Oakham Town Council provides the lights.

The campaign soon got the attention of the town council. Speaking to the Rutland Times on Tuesday, deputy mayor Alf Dewis said he was disappointed with the standard of this year’s decorations.

“We have had words with the Rotary Club,” said Coun Dewis. “They have a meeting on Thursday.

“It is also leaning at a rakish angle. I have asked the town council’s contractor to make sure the tree is safe.”

Coun Dewis said this year’s lights had not been set up in the right way. “I don’t think it’s a very good display at all,” he added.

“They are not strung very well. They have been done up and down rather than around the tree. You can actually pull the electric cords which seems very dangerous.

“I have asked the contractor to re-string the lights.”

The Rotary Club of Rutland has provided a Christmas tree for Oakham for the last few years. The town council gives a donation towards the tree, which this year was about £200.

The lights on the tree and around the town centre are owned by the council, but are stored, put up and taken down by Burnley firm Lite Ltd. The annual cost is about £12,000.

Coun Dewis said: “We are trying to make sure the lights give a better display. We hope that by Thursday everything will have been corrected.

“It’s good that people talk about it. It gets people quite heated and rightly so.”

Many people left comments on the Facebook campaign page. Jon Dixon said: “It’s just a mess and a sorry excuse for a tree, Christmas or otherwise. Given how much council tax we pay I can’t believe this is the best we can do. Come on the council sort it out.”

A spokesman for the Facebook campaign said: “I moved to Oakham six years ago and fell in love with a pretty little town in a beautiful county. Therefore I was surprised to see the lack of care put into the Christmas tree each year.

“Every spring and summer, Oakham comes alive thanks to stunningly-planted flower beds, baskets and pots created by volunteers for Oakham in Bloom. Why is the same amount of thought and pride not put into our town’s tree?

“My partner and I started the community page to see whether others felt the same and have been overwhelmed by the response from our fellow Rutlanders. It is not our intention to promote negativity towards the town council or the Rotary Club; we just don’t want our town tree to be a laughing stock to our neighbours in places like Stamford, Melton and Corby.

“Oakham Town Council seems to be taking notice, so hopefully we’ll get a tree that the community can be proud of in years to come.”

Lite Ltd installs Christmas illuminations in hundreds of towns and cities across the UK, from giant shopping centre displays to more small-scale projects like the one in Oakham.

Yesterday managing director Paul Taylor said: “I was aware that the lights on the Christmas tree had some negative feedback but I have got crews going in today to rectify the situation.”

Mr Taylor said the contract with Oakham Town Council had so far been “proactive and positive.” He said the town now had the latest LED lighting which gave huge savings on energy costs.

We contacted the Rotary Club of Rutland but a spokesman declined to comment at this stage.