Thursday, 3 March 2011

Councillor Mace "gagged" trying to challenge Market move plan

Councillor Roger Mace
Former Council Leader and Conservative Councillor Roger Mace is wondering if the City Cabinet and Council staff have something to hide after being "gagged" at this week's Full Council during discussion the future of Lancaster Market.

Councillor Mace, who is opposed to plans to move the Market to the City Museum building agreed by Cabinet, says he was prevented from presenting an amendment to the motion on the Market in a debate at yesterday's City Council meeting by use of a little known procedural device.

The motion, which had been placed on the agenda by the Conservatives expressed the need for action to reduce the costs of the indoor market based in the Market building.

The blocked amendment would have added the words "This Council therefore welcomes the fact that alternative locations for the Lancaster Market are under consideration but does not consider that relocating market tenants into the Lancaster City Museum building is an idea worthy of investigation at the present time."

"Someone somewhere must have been afraid of what might be said during the debate" says Councillor Mace, "or it would not have been curtailed before it had even started."

"My intention was to draw attention to the misunderstandings surrounding the Cabinet's recent decision to investigate moving the traders into the City Museum building, and test council opinion accordingly."

An image from a report suggesting changes to the current market
to make it more appealing to shoppers
The Conservatives point out that in answer to a written question asking whether the upper floor of the museum is also being considered for use by the market - and not just the ground floor, the Council's Chief Executive Mark Cullinan replied: "Yes, the upper floor is being considered, albeit there are areas where the regimental museum is located which would be unsuitable for a market."

This should come as no real surprize, of course: when the proposal was first raised last month, Green Party Cabinet member Jon Barry told virtual-lancaster the overall plan included the possibility of the Museum being moved from its current location entirely, perhaps to the Castle's Shire Hall, as the courts held there are seeking new premises (see news story)

The Cabinet decision to consider moving the market has already met with strong reactions. One letter in the Lancaster Guardian states "It must rank as the most stupid idea since Mr Blobby moved into Happy Mount Park" and goes on to say "an extension to such a beautiful Grade 2 listed building into New Street could be viewed as corporate vandalism and would surely have the Civic Society and English Heritage up in arms."

"Thinking the suggested move is to the ground floor of the City Museum - threatening only the exhibition space - has been enough for one commentator to brand the proposal as the closest thing to crazy," says Councillor Mace. 

"The misunderstanding that cabinet's decision to undertake further investigations into the conversion of the City Museum to accommodate Lancaster Market referred only to the ground floor of the museum building should have been exposed and refuted before now."

Earlier in the same meeting, Councillor Mace had been "guillotined" in mid criticism of the City Council's budget.

Councillor Mace has strong views on the Market's future and although he considers the costs of the current building mean it must be moved, other possible locations present their own difficulties. Responding to a suggestion that it might be moved to the Ashton Hall in Lancaster Town Hall, for example, he told virtual-lancaster it was popular for wedding receptions, "so that helps make it problematic as a new location for the market.

"I remember the relative success of the market when it was at the temporary building near the current bus station," says Roger, "so this prompts me to suggest looking at some new-build location within the revised thinking for the Centros development.

"It would be an opportunity to reduce the space allocated to the market: space which is empty and unlet to tenants at the present time.

"There are other possible palliatives to the City's financial burden from the Market Building, but unfortunately, the hard truth is that a move of the Market Tenants to a new location will only achieve the objective of reducing the annual costs to the Council of the Market building if an alternative use or user for the Market building becomes available to follow any permanent move by the Market Tenants to different premises."


Anonymous said...

No matter where the market is moved to payments to the Council's landlord of £500,000.00+ [and increasing] will have to be made for the next 84 years [a total of 42million pounds+] unless something is done. This burden is a legacy from the Labour administration of the 1990's who leased the market building for 99 years in our name.

Anonymous said...

If you're going to play the blame game, then none of the Conservatives don't come out well on this, either. It was a Conservative gpvernment that began a process of screwing over local councils on funding that meant they had to sell off assets that were generating revenenue to help maintain services; and it was while the Conservatives were running the Council that someone made the decision to under insure the original and much missed market so when it burnt down, it couldn't be rebuilt. As I recall, it was Conservative councillors who poo pooed John Whitelegg's much reported criticisms of the proposed two tier market design. Sadly he has been proved totally correct.

John Freeman said...

Commenting on the above story, Mark Cullinan, Lancaster City Council’s chief executive, told virtual-lancaster:

“Following the proposal of the motion on Lancaster Market by Councillor Peter Williamson, a procedural motion was proposed by Councillor Jon Barry to go straight to the vote.

“Once a closure motion has been proposed and seconded it has to be dealt with before any other amendment can be considered, as set out in the council’s rules of procedure.

“The mayor, Councillor Tony Wade, as chairman of the meeting, did, however, ask if any councillor wished to speak against the motion. As no councillor indicated that they wished to do so, the procedural motion was put to the vote and was carried.

“As a result Council procedures provided no further opportunity for any amendment from any councillor.”

Please find below a copy of the relevant minute from the meeting:


The following motion, of which notice had been given to the Chief Executive in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 15, was moved by Councillor Williamson and seconded by Councillor Histed:

“This Council considers that the current cost of Lancaster indoor market based in the Market Building, estimated at £500k per annum and increasing, is unacceptable and that action to reduce these costs is required.”

Councillor Barry put forward a procedural motion, seconded by Councillor Kerr:

“That the motion be put straight to the vote.”

The Mayor then asked Council if any Members wished to speak against the motion. As no Member indicated, the Mayor put the procedural motion to Council.

A vote was taken on the procedural motion. With many voting for and few against, the Mayor declared the procedural motion to be clearly carried and asked that a vote be taken on the original motion.

A vote was then taken on the original motion without further debate. With many Members voting for the motion and few against, the Mayor declared the motion clearly carried.

Resolved: This Council considers that the current cost of Lancaster indoor market based in the Market Building, estimated at £500k per annum and increasing, is unacceptable and that action to reduce these costs is required.