BUSINESS leaders are failing to help pay for illuminations which draw hundreds of shoppers to a North Yorkshire market town every Christmas.

Northallerton's Town Council and the chamber of trade have both criticised local companies for not helping to finance the considerable costs of the Christmas lights, despite the fact they directly benefit from the business they generate.

With about £3,000 still needed, council chiefs are having to appeal to the town's people to donate as little as 50p towards the costs.

The mayor Councillor Jack Dobson said the town council injected £5,000 towards the maintenance and running costs of the lights, but was on a tight budget and needed the public's help.

"The town council is trying to do what the people want but services have to be paid for and there are limited resources," he said.

"Quite a lot of businesses don't support the lights and yet they benefit from them considerably because the lights encourage people to come to the town and to shop.

"If companies gave just a few pounds each it would be a completely different story - the lights would be paid for."

Chairman of the town's chamber of trade, Jim Turnbull, agreed that visitors and residents were not the only people to benefit from the festive lights and that retailers should appreciate the custom they draw in.

He said: "If every business gave a token £10 it would make a tremendous difference. The same people donate year after year and it always tends to be the smaller businesses. It seems the big ones just don't want to know.

"The lights make our town a very attractive place to shop in and they put people in the Christmas mode.

"Businesses need to start to appreciate that."

The council is also appealing to Northallerton residents to donate money towards the lights. Coun Dobson said: "We want to encourage those who haven't contributed in the past to help us. Just £1 here and 50p there would pay for a new bulb."

The council has arranged the switch-on for Sunday, December 1, at 6pm