Two regular annual carol services were booked in for today. The Welsh Assembly Government at lunchtime and Quadrant (a Cardiff P.R. company) this evening.
A month ago I had a call from an official at WAG informing me that the booking was cancelled. No explanation offered. Last year saw a change in Permanent Secretary, appointed to the WAG from Whitehall. Her predecessor always attended and read a lesson. For one year only this was repeated.
I learned from a colleague that a second WAG carol service customarily took place down the Bay. Government institutions are distributed between the Senedd complex and the former Welsh Office in Cathays Park, close to where we live. The service in the Bay had lately moved into the Senedd building itself, and continues this year.
Well, I guess this is a time of recession and some evidence of spending cuts has to be made visible, so why not carol services? They may not cost a fortune to run, but as the old saying goes: 'look after pennies and pounds look after themselves'. I wonder if the audit of small things evaluates the additional cost of staff time and expended in getting staff from Cathays Park to the Senedd and back for one carol service?
Or is it a matter of death by incremental cuts? Next year will there be no employee carol service, in the interests of strict equality between all government employees, regardless of their religion or lack of it? If so, will anyone notice? Apart, that is, from the few who are eager to welcome anyone for whatever half decent reason into the house of God.
There were 150 people present for the Quadrant Carol service this evening, an event laid on for their employees and business partners, raising funds for the Marie Curie Hospice in Penarth. I'm glad St John's serves such initiatives involving voluntary charitable causes, generating social capital, just by being there, welcoming those organisations that seek to connect with worthy causes.
It will be interesting to observe what happens next year.