Star role for mandarin at Christmas

THE top civil servant at the Treasury had to stand on a chair and put a star on the top of its Christmas tree because of health and safety concerns, it has been revealed.

Permanent Secretary Sir Nick Macpherson's unusual role was revealed by George Osborne as part of a catalogue of red tape unleashed by the cost-cutting Chancellor's refusal to pay 850 for a tree.

Mr Osborne said he had vetoed a repeat of the 850 spent on a Christmas tree for the Treasury last year – and that he would go out and buy a cheaper one himself if necessary.

However, in a message from Sir Nick's office, he was told that the private firm which looks after the Treasury building raised a long series of concerns they could potentially charge for, including who would choose a tree, water it, turn the lights on and off and who would get the decorations.

Mr Osborne said: "In the end the Permanent Secretary had to put the star on the top of the tree because he was the only person in the building cleared to do it."

A Treasury spokesman said the decorations were bought for 36 from Argos – and were expected to last a decade.