HOMELESS and lonely people have found themselves with nowhere to go on Christmas Day, as the annual festive meal hosted at County Hall has been cancelled.

People who would otherwise spend Christmas Day alone have been coming to the volunteer-led event for almost 10 years, but now organisers have said they have run into “logistical challenges”.

After outgrowing the space at Trowbridge Fire Station where it began in 2011, the lunch has been held in the Atrium at County Hall, and is now run by volunteers from the fire service, Wiltshire Council, Apetito and Elior, operating under the name Company For Christmas.

Last year saw around 250 guests come to the party to enjoy a meal on Christmas Day.

Fire service control crew manager Kate Dewey has been heavily involved in running the lunch since it started and is the lead organiser for Company for Christmas.

Speaking to the Wiltshire Times this week she refused to give the exact reasons behind the decision, putting it down to “unforeseen situations” and claiming people had been told in October.

However firefighters in Trowbridge and Wiltshire Council's own press office were unaware of the cancellation when contacted by the Wiltshire Times.

Ms Dewey said: “Unfortunately, due to logistical challenges that the organising team has faced, we have taken the difficult decision to cancel the Company for Christmas Christmas Day lunch in Trowbridge for 2019.

“Supporters, guests and volunteers from 2018 were notified of the decision in early October.

“We are looking forward to 2020 and planning meetings and arrangements are already in place to ensure the event continues in the future.

“We are looking at a new operating model for the event which would see a more community-based approach so that we are able to keep people in their communities for Christmas, reducing driving times and pressure on guests, volunteers and organisers.

“Thankfully, the amount of volunteers we have is incredible and we are never short of people willing to give up their time to help us and be part of the spirit of the day.

“We have been given several unforeseen situations and challenges very late in the year and the co-ordination team feel we do not have enough time to resolve them successfully to ensure an event within our usual standards.

“We have also listened to feedback from our guests and volunteers and feel the event needs to evolve and we would like to consider it being more community located due to the number of guests and volunteers that attend from other areas.

“This, will take time to prepare and support from other areas will need to be forged to roll out other local lunches.”

Trowbridge Mayor Cllr David Cavill, who was also not told officially of the cancellation, is upset that the lunch will not take place this year.

He said: “I have no idea on the reasoning behind the event being cancelled but I am very disappointed.

“We must support these events especially at this time of year, and it is a great shame this will not be taking place.”

Wiltshire Council Leader, Cllr Philip Whitehead, said: “It is unfortunate that this year’s Christmas lunch, organised by Company for Christmas, is not taking place as we know how valued it has been by the local community. However, we’re looking forward to meeting the organisers early next year to discuss their plans for 2020 and beyond and any support we can provide for future events.”

Before the successful 2018 lunch, the then leader of Wiltshire Council Baroness Scott of Bybrook OBE said: “No-one should be alone on Christmas Day.

"This event helps many people to come together to celebrate the day and enjoy a wonderful Christmas lunch."