'Public safety' forces hike in stall fees at Lincoln Christmas Market
Ensuring public safety at Lincoln Christmas Market is the driving force behind an increase in stall charges, say council leaders.
City of Lincoln councillors approved plans to ramp up this year's fees at a full council meeting on Tuesday, June 26.
It means stall holders in the castle will see an 11 per cent increase in the cost of stalls in its square and grounds, a 1 per cent increase in the majority of other stalls and a 93 per cent rise for fairground pitches in the Westgate area.
And despite objections from the opposing Conservative group, the leader of the Labour-run council, Ric Metcalfe, insisted they would not cut costs while they have a duty to ensure public safety.
"We are working hard to make sure we get the most out of our resources," he said.
"However, that cannot and will not be at any compromise towards public safety at the Christmas Market. We are not going to start cutting back too much, people must be safe."
Safety costs for the council are varied. The planning of where stalls are placed, food hygiene, stewarding and health and safety all need to be considered.
"It comes in all shapes and sizes," said Mr Metcalfe. "Be it from making sure you don't get food poisoning to avoiding being trampled under foot.
"Taking it across the board it is huge, right from planning to what happens on the day.
"A large portion of the costs of running the market go on this. The only way to deal with the deficit is to increase the price of stalls."
In December 2011, 200,000 people went to the event over four days. It ran at a loss of £113,000 for the council, but new charges are intended to balance the books and ensure visitors are safe.
Tim Jones, of Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese in Ulceby Grange, has run a stall at the Christmas Market since 2000.
He understands the council's need to keep people safe. However, he is facing an increased cost with the food surcharge being raised 50 per cent.
It means he will pay £1,000 for a pitch in The Lawn and also £315 for selling his cheese.
"The council has a responsibility to taxpayers. They cannot lose money," he said. "But for us it might mean rethinking how we operate at the Christmas Market and possibly reducing the size of our stall."
Along with food there has also been a 163 per cent increase in the alcohol levy, which was the greatest concern to Councillor Geoffrey Kirby.
"There will be two increases for stands like the FFN, the wine organisation from our twin town of Neustadt in Germany," he said.
"Not only will their pitch go up, but they have an increase in alcohol levy to pay."