A change of direction for Leeds Market?
The new Labour administration in power in Leeds City Council today called for a revision of a report that rejected rent reductions at Leeds Kirkgate Market, signalling a change of direction in how the Market has been viewed by political leaders.
Leeds City Council Executive Board (the principal decision making body in the Council) discussed today an important report about the future of Leeds Kirkgate Market. The report (which you can read here) was written in response to demands put by Leeds Kirkgate Market Traders on the 21st of April to the Full Council. You can read Market Traders’ speech here (scroll to page 6).
On the 21st of April Market Traders called for:
- immediate appointment of a Markets Manager (the previous manager “retired” in December 2009 – see links to new stories on this)
- immediate rent reduction
- Reduction in car parking chargesa(where most customers park)
- immediate reinvestment (see figures about investment in the Market here)
As a response, council officers considered these issues and presented a report at the Executive Board meeting today practically rejecting all of these demands. Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market read the report in detail and found that many of the assertions made were inaccurate or inconsistent with information that we have obtained through discussions with traders and council officers. For example, the report mentions that the officers had made a rent comparison with other Markets but this contradicts information we got given by senior council officers. The report only mentions in passing rents at Nottingham Market. Given the importance of the issue of rents – by far the most serious for traders- we would have expected a fuller explanation of any rent comparison. The report also asserts that a rent reduction would not make a significant difference to the overall success of the Market, stating that a 25% rent reduction would only amount to £14 a week saving. These figures are misleading as they refer to one of the smallest stalls in the cheapest area of the Market and contrast markedly with traders’ own quoted savings of between £500 and £800 a month if a 25% reduction was to take place quoted in the Yorkshire Evening Post in December 2009 when this figure was first mentioned by the Council.
However one positive thing in the report is that it called for an independent rent review and confirmed that a Market Manager will be appointed.
You can read the whole response from Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market to the officers report here. Traders also sent their own detailed response which shared most points with ours.
At the Executive Board meeting, the Leader of the Council, Councillor Wakefield said that this report was limited and was not perfect and in fact noted that its accuracy had been challenged by traders and the public. He also acknowledged that the debate on rents was more complex than what it had been previously suggested and that more thought had to be given to it. Referring to the fact that there are going to be budget constraints in the future he said that with a bit of imagination the Market could be improved a lot. The Labour group has been in close contact with Traders in the past and councillors know that Traders are aware of the need to change some things in the market but importantly he also said that this was a two-way process. He therefore recommended that a new report is brought back to the Executive Board. We are looking forward to hearing more about this new report as many questions still remain answered.