Scrooge town hall chiefs have been slammed for axing SANTA CLAUS from their annual Christmas grotto – in a bid to save cash.
Families have accused penny pinching bosses at Birmingham City Council of ruining the festive period after their beloved Father Christmas was SACKED.
The city’s museum claimed the cost of hiring Santa for the festive period had become too high as the authority looks to plug £200 million-a-year.
For the first time in six years there will now be no annual grotto at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
Parents criticised the move which they said has left their disappointed children in tears.
Mum Julie Link, 47, from Streetly, West Mids., has taken her children, Jonathan, eight, and Alice, six, to the museum’s grotto for the past three years.
She said: “I called the museum when I couldn’t see any details on its website and was told Santa wouldn’t be there this year to save money.
“It was a shock. My children have come to believe that Father Christmas is the real one.
“He was fantastic.
“There was something particularly warm about him.
“Even the staff said they were devastated
about not having him there this year.”
Dad-of-one Oliver Keel, 30, added: “It’s ridiculous, they splash out money on big events for other festive holidays such as Eid and Diwali, but they can’t find a spare few quid to hire a Santa?
“I would do it for free – it’s going to leave kids who are used to going there absolutely devastated.”
For £3-a-ticket, children usually received a small gift and photograph in the grotto from the Santa Claus, which is held in the museum’s ornate Edwardian tea-room.
Mum-of-three Fiona Vurlan, 36, from Lichfield, Staffs, added: “It used to be magical – my little girls cried when I told them they couldn’t go and see Santa this year.
“He is the best Santa we have ever seen, he was jolly and friendly and brilliant with the kids. It’s such a shame.”
The council – which is Britain’s largest authority – is in the grip of a huge cuts programme to make savings of £825 million by 2017.
The museum is run by Birmingham Museums Trust, which is funded by the council as well as Art’s Council England.
In an email sent to parents who have complained the trust said: “We’re terribly sorry to hear about your disappointment that we won’t be holding the usual Father Christmas Grotto at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery this year.
“Our decision was not arrived at easily, but ultimately it was felt the best thing to do as we are currently reviewing all programming across Birmingham museums in light of changing resources.
“We did not want to go ahead with our usual Christmas attractions unless we absolutely knew we would honour the traditions to the highest possible standards.”
The cuts have also claimed the venue’s Nativity Trail, which had been running annually for eight years.
It showed visitors the Christmas story through 500 years of art.
A museum spokesman said: “In the light of changing resources it was decided we were not holding the grotto or the Nativity Trail this year.
“Resources are a factor but we are reviewing all programming.
“We want to make sure we offer quality and that what we present is robust and sustainable.
“The offer isn’t being limited and we have significant exhibitions opening over the next few years.”
Robert Oxley, Campaign Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Everyone wants to get into the festive spirit but councils have to rein in spending.
“Private sponsorship should be sought to keep Santa in his grotto rather than the council scrapping him altogether in what cynics might believe is a headline grabbing measure.
“It is a shame that the council isn’t as ruthless in cutting waste as it has been axing Saint Nick.”