Fury over private firm role in Leeds Kirkgate Market
Article published on the Yorkshire Evening Post
By David Marsh
Published on Wednesday 5 October 2011 09:00
Traders have hit out at council plans to spend thousands of pounds on consultants to help shape the future of Kirkgate Market in Leeds.
Councillors agreed in July to look at how the running of the historic market could be handed to an arms-length company.
Consultants are now to be hired to advise on how such an arrangement would work, what size the market should be and how it can attract extra investment – possibly from the private sector – for renovation work.
While welcoming moves to secure the market’s future, the Leeds Kirkgate Branch of the National Market Traders’ Federation said it had “grave concerns” over aspects of the council’s plans.
In a statement the branch said: “The council’s answer seems to be to employ a very expensive consultant to conduct research and find solutions.”
It said the council’s current markets staff should carry out the work and added: “The traders have been paying their rents … and to use this income to fill a consultancy company’s pockets when maintenance is required leaves an extremely sour taste in everyone’s mouths.”
The statement, issued by chair of the branch Liz Laughton and deputy chair Michelle Hocken, said the council should discuss the size of the market with traders who lived, worked and breathed the market and not a “white-collar consultant”.
They added: “The council have always said they want to work transparently with traders, now is the time to start putting this into practice.
“They should be looking at the involvement of traders running the market alongside the council, not trying to find quick bucks by selling off what they don’t know how to manage.”
Coun Gerry Harper, deputy executive member for city development, insisted traders had been consulted about the future of the market on a number of occasions.
He said that in securing the expertise of consultants, the council was going out to tender and would get the best value for money.
He added that the aim of the arms-length company would be to attract the millions of pounds needed to improve the market, money the council did not have