Fury at 'tacky' nativity scene

PUBLISHED: 12:20 13 January 2006 | UPDATED: 13:21 28 May 2010

The magazine cover that caused controversy

The magazine cover that caused controversy

THIS is the picture they never wanted you to see. A Christmas scene in which the senior management at West Norfolk Borough Council keep their own watch of wond'ring love. Floating above, the Angel Gabriel head of revenues and customer services Gareth E

THIS is the picture they never wanted you to see.A Christmas scene in which the senior management at West Norfolk Borough Council keep their own watch of wond'ring love. Floating above, the Angel Gabriel - head of revenues and customer services Gareth Evans - grins over the baby Jesus.Joseph - chief executive Ray Harding - shares an embrace with head of regeneration John Norton as Mary.But the quirky nativity scene, which appeared on the authority's monthly newsletter last month, has drawn complaints from staff and has been branded "tacky and offensive". As a result, the council asked the press not to publish the offending picture.The officials' faces were superimposed on to a photograph which originally featured David and Victoria Beckham. It was then circulated on the front of the council's magazine, Internal Affairs, to hundreds of employees, with the cheery message 'Merry Christmas from your Management Team!'One councillor said: "The people I have spoken to about it are really, really disappointed. It has gone too far."It is a tacky shot at people who hold strong Christian beliefs. Would it have happened with another religion?"The festive picture follows on from a similarly inventive newsletter in 2004 when the team's faces were pictured on baubles hanging from a Christmas tree.Most staff treat the covers as a bit of light-hearted fun, but some were less than impressed with the idea.A council spokesman said: "We have been made aware this image has caused offence to a very small number of staff, and have apologised unreservedly to those individuals."We are anxious that no further publicity is given to this matter as we would not wish to cause further offence to those individuals, or to a wider audience. "There was never any intention to cause offence."The idea came from a discussion about some members of staff having young children who were dressing up for their nativity play."The three kings are Andy Piper, environmental health and housing, Dave Thomason, deputy chief executive, and Debbie Gates, of central services.The two shepherds are Chris Bamfield, of leisure and public space, and Jeff Clarke, of development services.

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