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Councillors Criticise Plans to Privatise Market

January 17, 2012

At a Council meeting today councillors accused consultants of going beyond their remit in their £12,000 report which sets out dramatic proposals to privatise Kirkgate Market.

The Scrutiny Regeneration Board, who have been putting management of the market under the spotlight, were this morning presented with plans for the future of the market. Produced by Quarterbridge in just a few weeks, the report recommends that the council sign over the market to a Limited Liability Company for a 99 + year lease (memories of the corn exchange?) and despite investing £10m towards its refurbishment, would have to give up any controlling interest in the way that it is run.

Councillors on the board slammed the report which said that investors would only be interested in being involved in the market if they could be free from political influence and take part of the profit made from the rents

Councillors put officers on the spot with difficult questions about what would happen to future profits from the market. Despite the market being run down it still makes a healthy profit for the council which goes back into services for the citizens of Leeds. Neither Cath Follin, Head of City Centre and Markets nor Dave Outram, Chief Officer of the Public Private Partnership Unit were able to respond.

Coun Ralph Pryke Burmantofts and Richmond Hill testified to the level of public concern on this issue and said that he and other councillors had received a number of e-mails ahead of the meeting. Market traders also attended the meeting, understandably keen to have some clarification on what their future could be.

But as Coun Pauleen Grahame Cross Gates and Whinmoor pointed out, the report made little mention of retail and nothing that officers had so far not discussed the fate of traders who would have to reapply for their leases.

The report  sets out a plan to drastically reduce the number of stalls and traders working in the market. The council publicity is quoting a 25% reduction in size but close reading of the document shows that the consultants are proposing approximately 100 stalls. This is almost a 2/3 reduction of the current number of stalls. A spokesperson for the traders association pushed this point further – asking for answers on trader evictions, rent increases.

It was clear that the mood of the meeting and the majority of councillors was that Executive Board should not make any decision to approve this report when there were so many gaps in information and confusions over such key areas as – profits and what this means for traders and their livelihoods.  Chair of the Scrutiny Board Coun John Procter Wetherby said that the Executive Board could not possibly discuss this report without understanding if the private company set up to run the Market would expect to take the profit from the traders’ rents.

Thanks to all who wrote to the councillors sitting on the scrutiny board. It is really important that we all get in touch with our local councillors Find your Councillor to let them know what is at stake for our market.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Yvonne Sibbald permalink
    January 17, 2012 4:53 pm

    I am really glad that the emails have made a difference. I live in Wakefield and made the point to councilors that Kirkgate Market is loved by people from all over Yorkshire. I am glad that the these councillors seem to be taking some notice. The fight goes on!

  2. January 17, 2012 6:11 pm

    Marvellous – lets hope this is the boost we need to keep the market as it is. And Pauleen Grahame and Ralph Pryke actually on the same side – AMAZING

  3. Interested Council Tax Payer permalink
    January 19, 2012 1:16 pm

    The decline in the market will continue unless the Council decides on whether it wishes to be a Landord with the driver of seeking a financial return at whatever cost or treat the market as an ‘community’ asset and a place for new business growth and independent retailing to develop and flourish. Clearly, whilst the focus continues to treat the market as a financial asset only then the results of the policy of maintaining high rents is clear with voids throughout the market, even in the 1904 Market Hall.

    The report mentions an underground servving area but fails to detail how you would acheive vehicular access, if at all. It also mentions a food court on the balcony of the 1904 Hall, but lacks detail of access and how you deal with constucting against the backdrop of it being a Grade I listed buildng.

    I would have expected the traders to have been consulted in more detail and data collected on each business to understand their trading vision, whether they are looking to expand, downsize or leave the market in the future – this would then form opinion of the size of market required.

    Finally, there is no reference to how the market can be more integrated with the Eastgate Development and how footfall can be encouraged into the market. Nor is there a detailed anaylsis of the exisitng businesses and offer, regional trading conditions and national changes etc.

    I think that improvements can be sought at a much cheaper cost without the need for private sector investment and the ‘big bang’ approach recommended here is worrying.

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  1. Councillors Criticise Plans to Privatise Market | The Latest Market and Market Traders News UK
  2. KnowYourLeeds
  3. Meeting calls for public trust to run Europe’s biggest indoor market | Dani News

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