Extraordinary meeting on future of St John’s Market called – in two months

An extraordinary Liverpool Council meeting will be held to scrutinise the controversial closure of St Johns Market – but not for almost two months.

A day after traders, activists and customers came together to campaign against the shuttering of the market on Wednesday (pictured, lead image), it has now been confirmed that a special meeting will be held to assess the decision making.

Last Autumn, Liverpool Council said it would seek to recover three years’ worth of arrears from the dozens of businesses located within the market.

Correspondence seen by the LDRS has confirmed that the Lord Mayor, Cllr Mary Rasmussen, has deemed the next available date for such a hearing – requested by the opposition Liberal Democrats – to be 20 May, much to the group’s frustration.

Traders said they were left shocked by the move to close the site last week despite an initial request for £1.7m in unpaid rent being made last October. According to the city council, 13 of the 43 non-paying businesses made no offer.

They said 30 traders made a repayment of 33% for future costs, which they said was the same offer made during a previous mediation process in 2022. Cllr Liam Robinson, leader of Liverpool Council, told the LDRS the city was left with “literally no option” but to close St Johns Market amid the ongoing row. The Labour group leader said it was “sad the way it’s panned out” but council payers expected the city to collect revenue it was owed.

Earlier this month, Cllr Carl Cashman, leader of the Liverpool Liberal Democrats, called for an extraordinary meeting to “deliver solutions for the people of Liverpool” on the future of the market. In an email, seen by the LDRS, the Lord Mayor – whose term ends on 15 May – sought to grant the request and set out how a decision had been reached to hold it.

Cllr Rasmussen said, “As you will be aware the pre-election publicity period starts on Thursday, 21 March, until 2 May and during this period of heightened sensitivity, the council must take care to ensure it does not use council facilities and resources nor issue any publicity which seeks to influence voters in the forthcoming PCC and Metro Mayor elections. The advice I am given confirms that it would not be appropriate to call an extraordinary meeting of full council prior to 2 May.

“The options I have considered are to call the meeting at the rise of the AGM on 15 May noting that this is the incoming Lord Mayor’s Inaugural meeting and its special purpose may be adversely affected by holding an Extraordinary Council Meeting on the same evening. The alternative is to call the meeting on the earliest available date following the AGM, on Monday, 20 May.

“I am conscious that this would mean calling all 85 members and supporting staff together twice in quick succession but consider on balance that this is the better option. I have therefore asked our Democratic Services team to convene a meeting on 20th May.”

This was met with hostility by Cllr Cashman. He said, “It feels utterly ridiculous and short-sighted to leave these market traders in limbo waiting nearly two months for the extraordinary council meeting, by which time a good number of them will have had to close shop completely.

“By its very nature an extraordinary council meeting is typically on a time-sensitive and urgent issue. This isn’t the first time we’ve been faced with delaying tactics.

“If the administration has nothing to hide, that they’ve followed the proper processes, then why would the meeting be seen to influence the forthcoming elections to two positions that have no direct control or relation to St Johns Market.

“At the end of the day, this is people’s livelihoods, and the city council went in the night and changed the locks without any notice – the council deserves answers, the traders deserve answers and the public deserves answers.”

In her correspondence, Cllr Rasmussen also advised “other options exist” to pursue concerns around the market and advised Cllr Cashman to seek advice from the chief executive and monitoring officer.

Image: Protestors gathered outside St John’s. Credit: David Humphreys

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