A woman has spoken of how she was told to remove her Christmas lights by a housing association worker–in case they offended her non-Christian neighbours.
Dorothy Glenn decorates her home in South Shields with hundreds of festive lights every year, including a giant tree and a 4ft Santa Claus.
But she was left stunned this year when a South Tyneside Homes worker called at her house to inform her that the decorations she was displaying might be offending her neighbours.
The association last night apologised to Mrs Glenn and insisted that removing Christmas lights was not part of their policy.
The 41-year-old mother-of-three said: ‘I put the lights up in the first week of November and then recently a uniformed housing worker was outside, and it looked like he was counting my decorations.
‘When I went outside he said that the lights were “offensive to the community”. If I was offending anyone I could understand why he was telling me, but nobody has complained.
‘My neighbours are Bengali and Chinese and I know that they love the lights–the children will always point them out when they walk past.’
Mrs Glenn, who has lived at the property for four years with son Owen, 19, and daughters Samira, 21, and Chelsea, 15, said she had a close relationship with her neighbours and enjoyed living in a community with people from different backgrounds.
She said: ‘I told him that I am far from a racist and that I wouldn’t be taking the lights down. I’m shocked, annoyed and upset. At the end of the day, it’s the festive season and they’re staying.’
Independent councillor Ahmed Khan, who represents Mrs Glenn’s ward, condemned the over-zealous employee’s actions.
He said: ‘Every year this woman puts her Christmas lights up and I know how popular they are. It’s great when people make an effort to decorate their houses.
‘It’s this kind of nonsense that sets race relations back 20 years. That woman did nothing more than decorate her house to celebrate Christmas.’
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: ‘We would like to make it clear that South Tyneside Homes is happy for residents to put up Christmas lights to decorate their homes.
‘Christmas lights bring a bit of festive cheer to everybody and we are delighted to see examples of tenants and leaseholders across the borough taking so much pride in the appearance of their homes.
‘We have received no complaint about this alleged incident, but are investigating the matter and apologise for any upset this may have caused.