Members of FoLKM and market traders gathered at Leeds Civic Hall for the White Paper Debate put forward by Cllr Cohen (http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=2633) (Conservative) – looking at the following three aspects of the exec board decision:
- the involvement of market traders in the management decisions on the market
- ensuring retention of right of assignment
- and the poor evidence for any economic case put forward to the Exec Board
He also presented the results of a survey by FoLKM members that found that, of 94 market traders questioned, 76 had no confidence in the management, 10 had no opinion and a mere 8 were happy with the current crew.
It was countered by a white paper from Cllr Lewis (http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=221) (Labour) assuring the council that everything was fine and dandy, the market just needed to move with the times to become a more profitable and attractive institution, people were flocking from London to visit Harvey Nicks (Why? There’s a much larger one in London) and the footfall of the market had been increased by 7% by the opening of the Trinity Centre (ignoring the fact that it was snowing at the time and people were probably using the market to keep out of the weather on the way from the bus station). The council had complete confidence in the market management to deliver a high-quality shopping experience as an adjunct to the proposed Harewood Quarter’s reviving influence on the Leeds retail environment. As for the rights of assignment, Cllr Golton (http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=244) (Lib Dem) admitted anxiety, but said he had been assured they would be “negotiated individually”.
The upshot of the debate was that the 88 councillors present voted on party lines 73-15 in favour of Cllr Lewis. The full debate can be seen on the council web page http://www.leeds.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/103346
(scroll down the timeline on the right hand side of the page to 04:08:10)
The debate and our arguments did get some positive coverage in the Yorkshire Evening Post
So the struggle goes on. We will continue to keep a close eye on the Council and challenge any proposals that threaten the essential character of Leeds Kirkgate Market.
Lobby the Council for Market traders to be involved in management – Wednesday 8th of May 5.30- Come to support your Market
All councillors will debate how best to manage Kirkgate Market so that traders and customers benefit while still making a profit for the council. This will be on the 8th of May Leeds City Council Full Council meeting at around 6pm (this is a rescheduled debate as the 17th of April Full Council was cancelled due to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral). All 99 councillors are likely to attend and debate in earnest what is the right management for the market to get it thriving as we would wish. FOLKM are going to lobby before the event and involve the media it. It is a public meeting to which members of the public can attend.
We are asking everybody to gather at 5.30pm at the Civic Hall – side entrance for a public demonstration of support to the Market and to then attend the Full Council meeting for the Kirkgate Market discussion expected at 6pm. We would welcome as many people attending as possible.
You can also write to your councillor (find them here) to ask them to support the Market at this debate (see below for the specifics of what will be discussed).
3 weeks ago we reported on how the decision around a new redevelopment plan for Kirkgate Market that was taken in March was brought back to discussion after representations from traders, FOLKM and letters from many members of the public to councillors. On the 3rd of April the Sustainable Economy and Culture Scrutiny Board at Leeds City Council held a session to discuss whether to ask the Executive Board to review the controversial plans that would see potentially hundreds of traders displaced and/or lose their tenant rights as well as see higher rents in a redeveloped Market. FOLKM presented their arguments against the proposed plan (read here). As it was expected all but one of the Labour councillors voted to keep the decision despite the clear disturbing picture that emerged at the meeting of the broken relationships between traders and management, allegations of mismanagement, and lack of meaningful consultation. But all was not lost: the Scrutiny Board recommended the Executive Board to consider (see minutes here):
- That the right to assign leases be maintained for all new lease holders;
- That under whatever alternative Leeds City Council management model is adopted the urgent need to address the perceived negative and sometimes confrontational nature of the relationship between management and traders; and
- The need to reassess consultation methods and opportunities as the principles identified in the Executive Board report are progressed with the objective of ensuring greater ‘buy in’ and involvement of traders.
These recommendations are now being followed up by the Conservative Party in a white paper that they have submitted for discussion for the next Full Council on the 8th of May. This white paper asks for new redevelopment proposals that offer:
o a mutually agreed model of market management which ensures a fairer relationship with traders and their representatives,
o provision to guarantee traders the ability to assign their leases and
o a commitment to genuinely heal the rifts that have developed in the past and still exist.
This white paper still does not address the issue of high rents and potentially higher rents in the new redeveloped Market and the essential social function of the Market but it tries to tackle the problems of management.
Following representations by traders and the Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market on both the process and the outcome of the Executive Board decision on 13 March (see here) the decision has been now been ‘called in’
The campaign’s reasons for asking Executive Board to re-look at the proposals are as follows:
- This seems in part to be a poorly veiled attempt to bring to an end many/most of
those leases that contain a right to assign the lease – in favour of leases that are
far more in favour of the landlord (LCC). These leases (with their lack of security
of tenure) are an anathema to investment and actually argue against a trader
looking to build a business for the future as there is nothing to sell or pass on.
2. The traders (whose businesses and livelihoods are directly at stake) have no faith
in LCC executive or officers to deliver any of the promised benefits.
3. There is no question that a significant number of businesses will be damaged,
quite likely to the point of bankruptcy, by the disruption these proposals, officers
accept, will cause. It is unforgivable that a policy of this council will destroy such a
number of small businesses.
4. This whole policy is drawn up by people with no real experience of running
successful businesses and the people who best know how to run the market –
the stall holders – have been poorly engaged in this process and will have limited
input in the market’s future.
5. The proposal is far too tied up in nuts and bolts, and tinkering on the edges (signs
here, screens there, performance area in that bit, a roof improvement etc.) – it is
unimaginative and a wasted opportunity.
On Friday, March 22nd, Conservative Councillors called in the decision. This means that Scrutiny Board (Sustainable Economy and Culture) must now meet to hear evidence and they will then decide whether to ask Executive Board to re-examine the proposal and their decision. The Scrutiny Board meeting will be held on Wednesday 3 April at 2.00pm. (click here for agenda)
The Executive Board has agreed a £12.3m redevelopment plan for Kirkgate Market. FOLKM has now read in detail the background documents presented at Executive Board (to be found here) and as we expected the Devil is in the detail. We think there are enough grounds for councillors to ask the Executive Board to rethink their decision and clarify the consequences of this redevelopment (this is called a “call in”).
Our fears are that the redevelopment. (Below we explain these arguments in more detail)
- Lacks financial rigour and is highly risky
- Will have a catastrophic impact on traders
- Will be used to increase rents displacing traders and compromising the affordability element of the Market.
- Does not solve the broken relations between traders and management
- Misses an opportunity to harness the social function of the Market reaching out to those more vulnerable.
- Does not reflect the views expressed by the public and traders.
In order to revise this decision we need to mobilise councillors to “call in” the Exec Board decision; either 5 councillors from the same party or 2 from different parties need to come forward by FRIDAY 5PM.
ONE week after we were allowed to see what the city leaders have in store for Kirkgate Market – after much positive spin on their part and many attempts by traders and members of the public to get some basic questions answered (for example – how many traders will be given eviction notices – and how many of these would even be able to move into another area of the market) the Executive Board gathered to debate this important issue. Read more…
THE LEAD councillor in charge of changes to Kirkgate Market has shown his true colours by dismissing calls to slow down plans which could see existing customers and traders priced out of the market.
Coun Richard Lewis, let slip his irritation at FOLKM’s ongoing demands for a commitment to protect the market as a diverse place where everyone, no matter what their income, can afford to shop. In response to our questions about how the proposed redevelopment would impact on those who rely on the market most, he blurted out:
I don’t like this endless referencing to low income people.
written by a “Friend” of Leeds Kirkgate Market
I write this as both a market customer and a support worker.
For me personally, the market is a vibrant, colourful place with traders that you can get to know and have a laugh with. I can find bargains that supermarkets could not offer and food from all around the world so that when I google a recipe and think ‘how would I get hold of that?’ the answer is usually a trip to Kirkgate. I have become well acquainted with the South African Butcher, the outdoor market fruit and veg folk and can always count on the fish mongers to come up with a recipe when I splash out on a fish I’ve not previously heard of. That’s my take, for me it’s somewhere I can go because I’m on a low wage and trying to save hard for a future ambition. I also think it’s a beautiful building that I’m proud to introduce visitors of Leeds to.
As a support worker though, the building means more to me than beauty and bargains. I work with some of the poorest people in Leeds, people who have lived through some pretty dire events in their lives and find themselves struggling from day to day, often addicted to drugs and alcohol that have been the tonic to help them forget the horrors that swim around in their minds and memories on a day to day basis. Just recently, the Yorkshire Evening Post have been running some hard-line headlines on begging in the city centre; designed to eradicate those whose lives are the most chaotic from the city centre so that we can all do our shopping in a ‘pleasant environment’ and pretend that poverty does not exist in Leeds. Read more…