Cities in spat over Christmas markets

Their city councils may need to make combined cuts of hundreds of millions of pounds, but the battle cries coming from Birmingham and Manchester yesterday suggest their Christmas markets are safe.

In a battle of the bratwursts, both cities claimed they had the biggest continental markets this festive season. Manchester's offering boasts 300 stalls to Birmingham's 190, pictured, but the visitor numbers even the score. Birmingham City Council claimed its market will attract five million attendees, while its neighbour to the north gave projections of 1.5 million.

Councillor Pat Karney, Manchester's city-centre chief and the city's "Christmas spokesman", told the Manchester Evening News: "We never criticise any other local authority but the facts speak for themselves."

He later gave a more subdued statement, saying: "Birmingham's market has also become a much-loved feature in the city's Christmas calendar."

Birmingham council said: "We hope Manchester enjoys as much success as we continue to have."

The two cities have been rivals before, with periodic arguments erupting over which is England's "second city". That row reignited last year when ex-Business and Foreign Office minister Lord Digby Jones warned that Birmingham was in "grave danger" of losing the title.