Friday, 18 November 2011

Market Closure to go ahead after years of poor policy decisions

Although Lancaster City councillors  voted in favour of the closure of Lancaster Market on Wednesday, it was a decision taken by some with the greatest reluctance, according to  Green Party councillor Chris Coates.

The Green Party had long fought hard to retain the Market, but changed its policy in the run up to the meeting on the grounds of the increasingly unaffordable costs of leasing the building.

Councillors voted to negotiate a buy out from the lease with the building's owners, Allied (Lancaster) Ltd, at a Full Council meeting on Wednesday and offer compensation to traders still in the building.

The Lancaster Guardian reports the Market is projected to lose £642,000 in 2011/12 and th closure of the market could cost the taxpayer up to £20 million although a council report claims remaining in the lease could cost around £64 million.

As we reported earlier this week, the Council is reportedly seeking to borrow £8 million - about the equivaent of threee years rent on the building -  to finance breaking the lease. (The Council has declined to confirm this amount).

Coates told virtual-lancaster this morning that "Marketgate now seems a strangely appropriate name for the whole 20 year fiasco that has befallen Lancaster Indoor Market.

"Quietly slipping over the years into what has turned out to be terminal decline ‘Marketgate’ will have cost the council considerably more than it lost on Blobbygate and to Icelandic Banks combined," he opined in a peronal statement.

"It would be easy to blame the Councillors and officers who signed up to the terms of the deal in the first place – and I do lay some of the blame at their door. It would be easy to blame greedy property developers fleecing the council for all they could get – and they need to shoulder their share of the blame as well. We could look to blame lacklustre management over the last decade... But I don’t think it’s as easy as that.

"On the wall in the old Judges retiring room in Lancaster Town Hall there is a picture presented to the council by the Market Traders Association thanking council for the way that it had worked hard to reinstate the market after the fire that destroyed the old market... little did they know how it would all end.

"I don’t blame current councillors for wanting to buy their way out of the mess they find themselves in and for wanting the continuing financial bad dream to be over. But the bad dream is still set to carry on for another 20 years as the council pays off the multi-million pound loan that it will need to take out to buy itself out of the lease.

"All that has happened is the a small light has been turned on at the end of a 20year long tunnel. In the end I could not bring myself to vote to close the market.

"Closure of the Market is a bad day for Lancaster City Council, a bad day for the City and most of all a bad day for the market traders – to whom I would personally just like to say sorry."

Councillor Jon Barry, a fellow Green, called the decision" incredibly sad."

“I’ve fought hard for the market," he commented. "But reluctantly, it’s in the best interests of the council to negotiate a buy out.”

The Lancaster Guardian reports Council leader Eileen Blamire has given her personal assurance that traders would be treated fairly.

“We need to stop the uncertainty and stop the slow death and increasing costs,” said Coun Blamire.

Market traders have placed the blame for the decline of the Market fully on the Council, noting many past poor decisions in our previous story, incuding the proposal to hand it over to the dubious and now moribund and derided ASCO company, a decision which certain top level council staff and some now ousted councillors have successfully avoided being investigated for, despite concerns and complaints raised by market traders and local taxpayers.

“I’m gutted," said Peter Corke, chairman of the Market Traders Association, "but we knew it was coming.

“We now just want (compensation) for what the businesses are worth.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

So the council finally admit defeat and close the market, no surprise there really. "‘Marketgate’ will have cost the council considerably more than it lost on Blobbygate and to Icelandic Banks combined" is really the point. It would be interesting to explore the possibility of surcharging the councillors and officials (probably now retired) who negotiated an upward-only rent clause in the first place. Utter tossers.

Richard Robinson said...

“I’ve fought hard for the market," he commented. "But reluctantly, it’s in the best interests of the council to negotiate a buy out.”

Of the council ? I thought they were supposed to be looking after the best interests of the town.

Anonymous said...

A catalogue of errors doesn't seem to cover it, really. An encyclopaedia of errors is more appropriate.

What irks me most is that the people who have made such monumental and repeated balls-ups just carry on and it is the taxpayers of Lancaster who have to suffer for it. At least we can vote the councillors out (although the damage has already been done), but we are stuck with the civil servants who bring them these plans and tell them they are such a good idea - where was the due diligence in the ASCO fiasco?

The likes of Mark Cullinan and Heather McManus just stroll on, pushing their catastrophic schemes through - the effects of which as your story says will be felt for decades - and accepting none of the blame. If someone in the private sector had overseen the shambles of the Centros scheme they would've been out on their ear, but if you work for Lancaster City Council you get a promotion (Heather moved up from 'leading' regeneration to Deputy Chief Executive!). The reason they can do this is that they are to all intents and purposes answerable to no-one.

So thanks to them and their predecessors, we now have no indoor market and are pressing on with turning the historic city of Lancaster into yet another clone town.

Anonymous said...

"It would be interesting to explore the possibility of surcharging the councillors and officials (probably now retired) who negotiated an upward-only rent clause in the first place. Utter tossers".

What else would they negotiate? http://www.andersonstrathern.co.uk/legal-updates/upward-only-rent-reviews-in-commercial-leases-under-threat/. The reality is that Upward Only Rents are standard practice. Ireland are currently looking to change the law to get rid of them but we're still considering it.

Mike Gibson said...

In the bile-fest of blame one party has been missed - the council officers (and possibly the Conservative council leaders if we're blaming councillors) who insured a £5 million market for £1 million. If they'd been properly insured, like Birkenhead, they'd never have needed to go cap in hand to Allied in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Er, just as a matter of interest, does anyone know how much the current one is insured for?