A team of elves and Santas look set to miss out on thousands of pounds in wages after their employer announced it had ceased trading.

Grotto Hire UK and Agility Events Ltd has informed staff it is going into liquidation following weeks of complaints about unpaid wages.

An estimated 15 people who worked at one of the two company's Christmas grottos at the Freeport shopping outlet in Braintree were understood to be owed a combined £6,000 having not received their money on time.

The owner of the two Hull-based firms, Tony Jennings, had reportedly blamed cash-flow problems for the delay back in January.

However, in an email sent to staff last week, the director has confirmed the worst possible news that the firm has ceased trading with immediate effect.

Mr Jennings wrote: "Firstly, I would like to apologise for the current situation that Grotto Hire UK and Agility Events Ltd are in.

"The current status of unpaid staff was never our intention and we appreciate your patience and understanding so far.

We would like nothing more than to announce positive news, unfortunately this email is to announce that Grotto Hire UK and Agility Events Ltd will no longer by trading and will be starting proceedings of liquidation.

The email adds: "Due to financial pressures, the current climate in the retail sector and losing profits on the grottos, we have no choice but to cease trading.

"We are extremely saddened by this as we know how hard you have worked to provide an outstanding experience throughout. We have explored all avenues to continue to trade and rectify our cash flow problems but sadly we do not have the funds to continue.

"Our liquidators will be in touch with you all individually to explain the process of what happens next."

Grotto Hire UK and Agility Events UK ran several other Christmas outlets around the UK in December and more than 100 people are reported to have not been paid their full wages.

Jean Lynch, who worked as an elf at the grotto set up at Freeport, said: "We are all just fed up and deflated to be honest.

"There were a few youngsters working for the first time on that grotto who were waiting on that money. What a terrible first experience they have had."