Leeds City Council’s upside down consultation approach on market plans
Does Leeds City Council not understand what knowledge the traders have or does it simply not want to work with traders? That is the question emerging from the recent meeting held on the 18th Nov between Council officials and traders.
Just compare the language used in their latest press release on the Market redevelopment project.
“Traders will be shown the current plans for the project, as one of the main stakeholders, as part of a special briefing”
“To get this far we have already spoken to a number of affected traders about their requirements and we will be meeting with all traders shortly to update them on progress”
Versus the language used when talking about paid management consultants:
“Our appointed consultants have been working with markets management and independent commercial specialists to develop design and cost(ing) proposals”.
This actually translates into:
We have paid some consultants over £750,000 to tell the council what they want to hear about the future of the Market.
In the meantime, we try to keep traders in general as uninformed as possible but talk individually to some of them making separate and differential deals – trying to convince them they will be ok in the new plans.
No wonder this feels hollow to traders and they see a big gap between what is said to the Council and what happens in reality. This should not really come as any surprise, since part of the consultant consortium used to work for Leeds City Council and the other firms, that mainly deal with architectural designs,are from other cities and know little about Leeds.
But it does show a that those leading this change in LCC whilst naïve since they think people will take this lying down, they seem quite prepared to waste Leeds taxpayers’ and traders’ money by not capitalising on the expertise of the traders – some of whom have had family businesses there for over 100 years. What a waste not to tap properly into that knowledge.
When FOLKM announced they were presenting a community deputation to denounce lack of progress and transparency, we saw a sudden burst of activity on the part of market management and Councillors leading this change – and meetings with traders organised at very short notice. Any wonder that this seems like simply tick a box exercise, pretending there is real engagement with traders. This simply is not true and trader after trader gives that message to anyone who will listen – which is not the councillors leading this change, who do not talk to traders unless they feel pressed into it and do not actually listen at all. That really says it all – they have a plan they are driving forward regardless and it might just end in catastrophe.
In terms of the empty promises about traders being engaged in new market management board, this now is not going to happen until all the plans for the redevelopment have been decided, consultants appointed and plans drawn up under current proposals. Too late to have any significant input.
So we want at the Executive Board meeting in December to have the questions posed in the community Deputation properly discussed, for common sense and financial considerations to prevail and fundamental changes made to the current direction of travel.
All that is being sanctioned here is the expenditure of money on consultants – no repair work being funded for things like leaking roofs and no meaningful engagement with traders – the people who know and understand the market customers most. It is like a script from an old Monty Python – “Ministry of silly market policy”