Thursday, 17 January 2008

What is going on with the Kirkgate Market?

Traders angry at £1.5m market profit

Yorkshire Evening Post, 11th of January 2008

Peter Lazenby

LEEDS City Council is making £1.5m a year profit out of the city's Kirkgate market – while traders warn of financial problems and stalls stand empty.
Traders say rent, rates and increasing energy bills are pushing more and more to the brink.

The YEP used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain figures that show the indoor market costs the council £3,064,000 to run, and it generates income of £4,228,000.

The outdoor market costs £357,000 and brings in £750,000. The total profit is £1,517,000.

On top of rent and service charges, traders also pay business rates, not included in the profits.

Leeds City Council said that over the last 15 years it has invested £12m in the market and that the number of vacant stalls and shops had fallen.

Traders reacted angrily to news of the levels of profit.

Colin Coultas of Tony Banks grocery in the indoor market said: "All I know is that if they charged a different rent they could fill the units. I can remember when there were no empty units.

"The last big rent increase was about 90 per cent. It used to be one of the best markets in Britain – probably the best."

Michael Gaynor of Malcolm Michael butchers said: "The rent and service charges are about £320 a week and the business rates are about £95 so that's £415 a week. They are screwing us."

A cafe off butcher row which had once been a thriving business closed overnight recently, costing four jobs.

In some sections four properties in a row are empty and to let. Leeds Pottery is to close shortly.

One trader who did not want to be named said: "If they lowered the rents the people of Leeds would get a better bargain. It is £1,000 a month and it is too much."

Other traders said they dare not talk to the YEP because of fear of reprisals. Mr Gaynor said he had been summoned to a meeting with market management after speaking to the YEP some weeks ago.

One trader sang the praises of the council and market management. "They do a fantastic job," said Wazim Mir who has two clothing stalls in the indoor market.

But young butcher John Smith said: "I have worked for three butchers here and two of them have closed."

Leo Burke, who has been on butcher row for 20 years, said: "I pay £1,700 a month for rent, rates and service charge. It is astronomical."

A council spokesman said: "We will continue to invest heavily to keep the market healthy and vibrant.

"Profits go into a central pot to help the council provide a range of services and keep council taxes low. However, it would be inaccurate to say this shows a lack of commitment to the market.

"Before Christmas, the number of vacant stalls decreased with fewer than 10 per cent unoccupied – a similar figure to previous years.

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