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Traders told to dress as Santa to get Christmas rent reduction

NO HO HO ... market traders Lynn Lucas and Robert Ridley are angry about South Tyneside Councils offer of a discount if they dress up in Santa Claus outfits, as outlined in a letter they were sent by town hall officials.

NO HO HO ... market traders Lynn Lucas and Robert Ridley are angry about South Tyneside Councils offer of a discount if they dress up in Santa Claus outfits, as outlined in a letter they were sent by town hall officials.

MARKET traders have cried ‘humbug’ after being told to dress up as Santa Claus to qualify for a festive rent reduction.

South Tyneside Council is encouraging stallholders in South Shields Market Place to get in the Christmas spirit today, tomorrow and on Monday.

It has asked traders to decorate their stalls in a festive manner and to wear Christmas-related costumes while trading.

As an incentive, the authority is offering to reduce the rents of all traders signing up – and dressing up – from £15 a day to £10.

However, that request has been met with a firm ‘no-ho-ho’ by two of the market’s most outspoken stallholders, Robert Ridley and Lynn Lucas.

Mr Ridley described the offer as a “proper insult” and accused the council of deliberately running down the market.

That was an accusation strongly refuted by a council spokesman, who said the discount offer was merely a “light-hearted incentive”.

Mr Ridley said: “The council is making mugs out of the market traders.

“For the sake of just £5 off our rents, they want us to dress up in Santa gear. It’s a proper insult, if you ask me.

“I have asked for them to give us two stalls for the price of one, and I still haven’t had an answer.

“They are downgrading this market. They are smashing it to pieces.

“The council has spent thousands on putting up the marquee on the old Wouldhave House site, which was blown away, and on the camels, and all they can offer us is a fiver. What an insult.”

Mr Ridley was equally dismissive of the offer of a £25 voucher for the new Haven Point Leisure Centre to the trader who “makes the best festive effort”.

“What happens if you can’t swim? It makes no sense,” he said.

Mrs Lucas added: “Can you honestly see me fitting into a size 12 Santa outfit? Maybe one side of my body might. It’s not going to happen.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul

TOWN HALL bosses have defended their efforts to breathe new festive life into South Shields Market Place, describing the Christmas-inspired rent reduction as a “light-hearted incentive” to traders.

A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “South Shields Market Place has enjoyed a flurry of activity over the past few weeks, with thousands of people visiting for the lantern procession and Christmas Wonderland programme in St Hilda’s Gardens.

“The market has been featured prominently in promotions, which are attracting people to the town centre in large numbers.

“One of the initiatives helping to attract people to the town centre is a series of themed weekends, with traders adding to the Christmas spirit by decorating their stalls.

“This weekend’s event will see carol singers, festive entertainment and live music to create a fun and festive atmosphere.

“Another great reason to visit the town centre this weekend will be an outdoor Christmas card gallery.

“We are also doing everything we can to keep parking costs down for shoppers, with parking free after 5pm and on Sundays until Christmas, and all parking now down to £2 a day in the eastern part of the town centre.

“In addition, the new refund scheme means that shoppers can get their parking charges back from participating retailers.

“The reduction in rent and competition prize are a light-hearted incentive to thank traders for helping to make the market a fun place to visit in the run-up to Christmas.”

 

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