A leading Carlisle councillor has pledged to redouble efforts to improve the “dire” Christmas market following complaints from visitors.

The recent seasonal extravaganza failed to add as much Christmas sparkle to the city centre as hoped, with out-of-town shoppers reporting disappointment with the festive fare on offer.

Leader of Carlisle City Council’s Labour group Colin Glover quizzed Conservative councillor Stephen Higgs, the council’s portfolio-holder for culture, heritage and leisure, about what had gone wrong – and what more could be done to “remedy the situation”.

He said he’d been told there was a party that came to stay in a city centre hotel specifically for the Christmas market, but had been underwhelmed by their experience.

“Their words were ‘it was dire’ and they wished they had gone somewhere else,” Mr Glover added.

Describing the Christmas market as an important part of supporting businesses in the city centre, he sought assurances that steps would be taken to ensure it remained a successful fixture in Carlisle’s calendar of events.

A meeting of the city council heard a decision had been taken “some years ago” to move away from a more international Christmas market in a bid to support local businesses, growing the event year on year.

The focus was on encouraging businesses from the wider Borderlands region – southern Scotland and northern England – to bring their wares into the city centre in a bid to boost footfall and support the high street during the Christmas period.

Responding to the concerns, Mr Higgs said the council would do its utmost to get the market “back on an upward trajectory”.

But councillors were told that the recent market had been “very small” with a dearth of traders signing up to be part of the event.

Mr Glover said that, if the council was going to advertise the Christmas market wider than just the local media, visitors to Carlisle had the right to expect “something a bit more substantial”.

“It has been growing year on year and now it’s clearly gone into reverse,” he added.

Councillor Lisa Brown suggested that the timing of the event, from November 30 to December 4, may have been a factor in why it appeared to have fallen flat.

She also asked what could be done to ensure Carlisle would be able to compete Christmas markets hosted by big cities such as Manchester.

Responding to the concerns, coun Higgs said the council would be doing its utmost to get the market “back on an upward trajectory”.

He revealed that there had been a lower-than-expected uptake from stallholders and that the timing of the event could be reviewed to see whether it could be launched slightly later in the season.

Coun Higgs said: “There have been some really successful events in the city centre over the last few months including the fire show and the switch-on of the Christmas lights.

“However, I would be the first to acknowledge that the Christmas market, which tried a slightly new format, didn’t work as well as everybody hoped that it would.

“People were aware from way back in August that there seemed to be a lack of willingness from stallholders to come forward with promises to take a spot on the market.

“And on the days when I was in the town centre, I would have to agree it was flat. The weather probably didn’t help.”