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England's quest for a budget-friendly tree might have ended in a letter to Santa. - 


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: And now, a tale of festive austerity from Britain. The UK finance minister in charge of massive Budget cutbacks said he'd look for cuts big and small. In fact, this holiday season he tried to buy a cheaper tree for his Treasury department. But that got a 'lump of coal' reception.

From London, here's the BBC's Jon Bithrey.

JON BITHREY: Last year, the British treasury tree cost $1,400. But this year, Chancellor George Osborne said he was going to trim costs. Risking a Scrooge-like reputation, he came up with the idea to head down to the local hardware store and buy a standard tree for $60. But he claims he met resistance. Treasury officials questioned who would decorate the tree and turn the lights on and off. And the contractor said it wouldn't water a tree that was "off contract." British political commentator Quentin Letts calls the whole episode absurd.

QUENTIN LETTS: What this just shows you I think is the way that past governments have been very lax about keeping control on spending. But also the way governments get sown in to expensive contracts by suppliers.

In the end the contractor supplied a cheaper tree -- without the trimmings.

In London, I'm the BBC's Jon Bithrey, for Marketplace.