St John’s Market trader chair hits back at cabinet member claims

Market traders have rejected the idea the closure of St Johns “can’t have been a surprise” with their association chair claiming Monday’s shuttering “came completely out of the blue”.

Colin Laphan, chair of St Johns Market Traders Association, said businesses were “completely taken by surprise” by the decision by Liverpool City Council to close the city centre market last week.

This was at odds with the stance taken by Cllr Nick Small, cabinet member for growth and economy, who told BBC Radio Merseyside the decision to close should not have come as a shock given months of negotiation over the rent.

Mr Laphan said he wanted the cabinet member to explain how traders were meant to pay back outstanding rent if their businesses were shut to trade.

On Monday, Cllr Small debated the issue with Cllr Carl Cashman, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, and said it was a “disappointing” situation to be in. He said, “We tried with the traders, nobody wanted to be in the position we were in last Monday, it was disappointing we didn’t do that but we worked with our solicitors and their solicitors over this for a five month period. It can’t have been a surprise to the traders what happened.”

This was rejected flatly by Mr Laphan. In response, he said, “The traders and our solicitor were completely taken by surprise, we were in complete shock. It came completely out of the blue.

“Nick said letters were sent. Yes, and every single letter was responded to in full.

“The wording on the council’s letter was very clear in giving us a further six months to negotiate.”

The traders’ chair also challenged the Labour councillor to explain “how we are to run businesses capable of paying this magic rent if he closes the doors, turns off the escalators, ramps the heat up to 30 degrees and removes all the signage whilst stopping new tenants from coming?” Cllr Small suggested the council had taken the decision earlier this month in a bid to secure best value for taxpayers.

Mr Laphan said this included more than just “pure maths”. He said, “The intangibles that have no direct mathematical value, are equally important to the community and the city. Such as the tourist value, the heritage and culture value, the value to the user community.”

A demonstration is being prepared outside the market on Wednesday in opposition to the decision to close.


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