Health and safety bosses today waded into the row over SpongeBob SquarePants’ Wolverhampton appearance and said “ridiculous excuses” had been made over why the children’s character could not get on stage.
SpongeBob could not climb the stairs on to the stage during the city’s Christmas lights switch-on because of the size of his costume.
Council bosses said he could not be hoisted up on the back of a lorry because of the huge crowds that had turned up.
Young fans who had braved the cold weather to see the star during the Christmas ceremony last Wednesday were left disappointed when he remained on ground level, meaning many could not see him.
The Health and Safety Executive has now entered the fray, saying council claims that red tape was to blame were not true.
Executive chairman Judith Hackitt instead criticised the council’s lack of forward planning.
She said: “If I could have a Christmas wish for myself it would be that we hear a lot less of these ridiculous excuses in future. That would be a gift we can all enjoy.
“The truth is that health and safety did not prevent SpongeBob taking to the stage to switch the lights on. With a bit of common sense and forward planning it would have been perfectly possible to get SpongeBob up on the stage, bulky costume or not.”
Following the disappointment, children’s channel Nickelodeon has stepped in to organise for SpongeBob to return to the city to meet and greet fans.
Families can see him on the lower ground level of the Mander Centre on Sunday from noon to 4pm.