A PARISH councillor's idea for a Christmas tree without lights got short shrift in Hurworth this week.

Worried about the £700 price tag on the seasonal feature, David Bell suggested a bare tree would cut costs.

Other councillors were horrified.

"For heaven's sake, we can't do that," said Coun Meg Naylor.

Coun Bell was also scathing about the quality of the 25ft-yuletide tree, claiming Scorton's created much more ambience.

At Tuesday's meeting of the council, Coun Bell said: "I am concerned about the cost of the Christmas tree. It is a lot for what we get. We should explore other ways of celebrating Christmas on the green, rather than by spending £700 or so.

"I realise this is provocative, but I suggest we have a tender arrangement in future and test the water on cost."

Council clerk Ian Murphy said £250 was the cost for buying the tree and installing it on the green. Then there was the cost of putting on the lights.

"We can't do this with volunteers any more because of health and safety rules. We have to go to Darlington Council, as do other parish councils, and this is an expensive item."

Chairman Coun Clive Bullock warned against going out to tender as initial reasonable costs tended to rise.

"I have relatives in Scorton and their tree is much more decorative and rustic than ours," said Coun Bell. "The ambience is more villagey. Ours seems to be thrown together with crash barriers all around it."

Mr Murphy explained that the barriers were necessary for health and safety and security reasons.

"So let's just have a bare tree and cut some of the cost," said Coun Bell.

After the protests, he said: "OK, we'll leave it then. I just don't think it is value for money. Throughout Scandinavia they don't decorate trees."

Mr Murphy suggested trying to get sponsorship for the tree in future.

"There is a question of tradition here," said Coun Bullock.