The tale of the Treasury’s rather tortured Christmas tree purchase is reported in a number of newspapers this morning, including the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Guardian.
According to the reports, Chancellor George Osborne wasn’t keen on paying for a tree supplied under the department’s PFI contract – which would have cost £875 – to demonstrate commitment to the government’s austerity drive.
When civil servants asked the supplier whether they could nip down to B&Q for a considerably cheaper one - costing around £40 – the supplier allegedly raised a number of concerns, including: who would decorate it in line with health and safety regulations? Who would be responsible for turning the lights on and off? And who would dispose of it?
Fortunately, this Christmas story has a happy ending. The supplier ended up donating a tree to the government department for free, and the Treasury’s permanent secretary Sir Nicholas Macpherson stood on a chair to place the star on top.