A west Dorset town has made headlines after scrapping its traditional Christmas light switch-on event this year.

Beaminster featured on national evening news this week in a segment about cash-strapped councils around the country pulling the plug on Christmas events.

But the reason Beaminster Town Council chose not to go ahead with the Christmas Lights Festival this year wasn't because it didn't have the money. 

If you've been through Beaminster this week, you'll have noticed a beautiful, twinkling Christmas tree takes pride of place in a glowing Square. 

The town looks as festive as ever but, sadly, there was no main switch-on event as per previous years.

The Bridport News reported back in February this would be the case.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News:

At the time, Beaminster Town Council did acknowledge 'difficult economic times' and said it needed to be 'mindful' of how funding is utilised, before stressing the importance of volunteers and council staff in order to allow such events to go ahead.

It said it was calling off the Christmas Lights Festival 2023 because some of these key staff and volunteers, who generously donated their time, had encountered instances of verbal abuse during the course of the 2022 festival.

It said the expenditure organising the 2022 festival was in the region of £11,000,  which did not include the many hours of time given by volunteers and council staff.

In a statement, the town council said at the time: "Whilst the event has been popular in the past, the council’s priority has to be a safe event for all those who attend and we cannot continue to do this successfully without the support of council staff and volunteers.

"Unfortunately some staff and volunteers had encountered instances of verbal abuse during the course of the 2022 festival and we were saddened to also learn of this taking place during a number of other community events that we have hosted in the past.

READ: Beaminster Christmas Lights festival cancelled for 2023

"We would like to reassure residents that the main tree, the Christmas lights in the Square and the small-lit trees throughout the town will still be supported by the Beaminster Town Council in partnership with businesses and residents."

The News understands the verbal abuse was aimed at volunteers and staff in regards to implementing road closures and restrictions in the town centre to enable the event to go ahead safely. 

This year, instead of a switch-on, smaller events were hosted by groups including St Mary's Primary School and the secondary school. Prout Bridge and the church also hosted events. The Christmas lights across town are as stunning as ever.

The national news item has upset the town council. So much so, council chairman, Cllr Craig Monks, has published an open letter:

"I am writing to bring to your attention to certain inaccuracies in a recent news article that negatively portrayed Beaminster and its Town Council. The article in question suggested that the council's cancellation of the Christmas lights parade was due to the town being close to bankruptcy.

"While financial considerations were indeed a factor, it is crucial to highlight that there were two other significant reasons for the cancellation. Firstly, the lack of community involvement within the Christmas lights committee played a pivotal role. Traditionally, this event has been community-led rather than council-run, and the decision to cancel was influenced by a noticeable decline in community participation.

"Secondly, the cancellation was prompted by incidents of abuse and intimidation suffered by our team of dedicated volunteers during the previous Christmas event and other recent town activities. This unfortunate situation compelled us to prioritise the well-being and safety of our volunteers and community members.

"Beaminster Town Council took the responsibility to decorate the town despite cancelling the Christmas Market. It is essential to clarify that unlike some other councils featured in your report, Beaminster Town Council does not receive direct financial support from the central government. Our finances are raised through a precept and council assets, and we pride ourselves on the responsible management of these funds.

"Beaminster is a vibrant and proud town with a financial situation distinct from the councils mentioned in your report."