Councillor Scrooge sat in his counting house, overcome with generosity. “I have bled Kirkgate Market dry for 20 years,” he thought, “now is the time to pay it back. I shall borrow 12 million pounds and watch the money roll in even faster when I refurbish it to a high standard and put up the rents.”
That night Scrooge was visited by the Spirit of Markets Past. He was swept into a scene of stupendous bustle, as shoppers dashed hither and thither, stuffing their bags, baskets and trollies with all manner of meat, fruit, vegetables, cakes, sweets and toys. The stallholders were full of merriment and cheerful banter. For it was Christmas, the season of high spending. He saw his contituents, low-paid Bob Cratchit and disabled Tiny Tim, loading their bags with festive fare for their annual celebration.
The next night Scrooge was visited by a more austere spectre: the Spirit of Markets Present. As he wandered through the echoing halls of shuttered stalls, he heard traders complaining that they were being moved to new stalls where they could not afford the rents or the wherewithal to re-equip them, and he saw customers searching for cheap cabbages and cut-price pies.
“They are suffering from austerity, unemployment, zero-hours contracts, the bedroom tax and universal credit,” said the spirit, “so they have to watch their spending. Poor Tiny Tim is finding it hard to manage on his employment support allowance and Bob Cratchit is struggling on the minimum wage.”
Are there no food banks? Are there no pound shops?, said Councillor Scrooge.
On the third night the Spirit of Markets Future manifested itself
“At last!” thought Councillor Scrooge, “I shall see my grand plans come to fruition. A happy place with neat and tidy stalls, selling all kinds of goods to a grateful population. There will be non-stop entertainments in the 1976 hall for people to enjoy while they refresh themselves at the cafes or browse among the day traders’ barrows.”
But he was met by a scene of appalling desolation. The 1976 and 1981 halls were gone, demolished to build offices and mean blocks of flats. The outside market was a car park. Only the 1875 hall remained, now rebranded as the Victoria Gate Heritage Experience and selling luxury goods at eye-watering prices. Even the Council Crest was gone.
“What happened?” asked Councillor Scrooge in despair.
“It worked for a while,” said the Spirit of Markets Future, “But once the rents were put up, the usual customers could not afford the prices and the high-spending John Lewis and Victoria Gate customers were never comfortable buying goods without a recognisable brand name. So the prettier parts of the market were bequeathed to Hammersons and the rest was sold off to pay back the 12 million pound loan. Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim are reduced to scouring the discount sector for sell-by-date bargains and have lost the spirit of community that the market provided.”
The next morning Councillor Scrooge awoke a changed man. “I must undo all that I have done,” he said, “The market is an asset to the community and must be preserved.”
But it was too late. The Council had already approved the plans with hardly any discussion.
God help us every one!