Council chiefs are being forced to shell out for 24-hour security to protect festive lights on display in a churchyard.
The Gazette understands that a five-figure sum is being paid to ensure the safety of the Christmas Wonderland illuminated displays, situated near to St Hilda’s Church, in South Shields.
It is a sorry state of affairs the council has done this.Council source
The cost - which the council are refusing to disclose due to “commercial sensitivity” - covers 24-hour security for the duration of the council’s festive programme.
The council say security has been drafted in after issues with vandalism and thefts in previous years.
One source close to the council said: “It is a sorry state of affairs that the council has had to do this.
“To have to have 24-hour security to watch over Christmas lights is ridiculous but after the damage caused in previous years it is a sad necessity.
“The lights are something the kids really enjoy seeing, it’s just a shame it is having to come at such a high cost to taxpayers when there are so many cuts going on elsewhere.”
The lights within St Hilda’s gardens at the Market Place were switched on last month as part of the launch of the council’s festive programme of events and activities which saw boyband 5ive officially mark the start of Christmas for South Tyneside.
The display, which is lit up each day between 4pm and 10pm, features a range of illuminated festive characters including penguins, polar bears, Santa and his reindeer and sleigh.
Trees within the garden have also been lit up. Visitors can also see a traditional nativity scene.
A council spokesman said: “South Tyneside Council have 24 hour security in place at St Hilda’s Church Gardens festive lights display due to issues with vandalism and theft in previous years.
“We want to protect this popular attraction which forms part of the borough’s successful Christmas programme that brings thousands of people into South Shields town centre over the festive period.”