Bristol

Criticism over Camilla Bath Christmas lights switch-on

The decision to choose the Duchess of Cornwall to switch on Bath's Christmas lights has been criticised by the chairman of the local council.

Sarah Bevan said she did not think a member of the Royal Family was an appropriate choice in the current economic situation.

The Liberal Democrat added that "home grown talent might have gone down a bit better".

The organisers said the duchess had helped raise Bath's profile.

The switch-on was organised by Future Bath Plus, which oversees the management of the city centre, with support from Bath and North East Somerset Council.

'Home grown talent'

Ms Bevan was on stage at the switch-on event on Thursday evening and made two speeches.

On Friday morning, Ms Bevan told BBC Bristol: "Members of the Royal Family are born into hereditary privilege and it doesn't feel too good when people are losing their jobs, very worried about paying mortgages and things like that.

"That is why I had reservations. But I wasn't saying I wish it wasn't her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall herself, it's just the principle behind it.

"We do have a lot of home grown local talent, particularly comedic talent, which might have gone down a bit better."

Paul Wiltshire, deputy editor of the Bath Chronicle, said: "On a night when she [Sarah Bevan] made two speeches welcoming the duchess, one a very public one in front of about 3,000 people, it's odd that she would be saying these things."

A Clarence House spokeswoman declined to comment.

Ian Bell, director of Future Bath Plus, said: "Councillor Bevan is of course entitled to her opinion.

"However, the duchess is a very high profile national figure as well as being the wife of a local shopkeeper.

"She played an important part in the event, which drew attention to Bath and helped raise our profile still further, which will be good for local businesses."

The Prince of Wales has a Highgrove shop in Bath.

Francine Haeberling, leader of the council, said: "The duchess has strong links to the area and does some fantastic work with local charities including the National Osteoporosis Society based in Camerton, St John's Hospital and the Theatre Royal.

"It is regrettable that the chairman of the council made her personal views known to the media.

"These are very much her own views and not shared by the council.

"We look forward to welcoming the duchess back to Bath in the future."

Last year, the city's Christmas lights were switched on by Hollywood actor Nicholas Cage, who had just sold his home in the city.

Neither the Duchess of Cornwall nor Mr Cage were paid for switching on the lights.

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