Northern Ireland

Santa's fire engine visits 'sleighed'

Santa on a crane
Image caption Santa may be forced to once again rely on his reindeer in Derry this year

Santa Claus looks set to miss out on his traditional mode of transport in Londonderry following a row over alleged cutbacks.

Firefighters have voluntarily brought Santa on their fire engines every year to almost 200 venues around the city, including primary schools and elderly care homes.

The Fire Brigades' Union says the cost of diesel is the reason for the service being drastically scaled back and have urged senior management to reverse the decision.

The Fire and Rescue Service denies financial cutbacks are to blame and says it remains committed to the popular festive tradition.

It says the reduction is due to the "huge increase in demand over the last few years".

A jolly member of staff has also recently retired, it says.

SDLP mayor Colum Eastwood said he found it hard to understand why the service was being cut.

"It's not jeopardising the service because people do this in their own time; it's voluntary and not during working hours," he said.

"I don't see the point in cutting it."

Model Primary School principal Paul Sheridan says: I know it's austere times and everybody has to cut back, but it's just a pity that the children are going to lose out."

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