St John’s Market traders admit life is ‘grim’ as rent payments loom

St John’s Market traders have said the situation they face is “grim” as a rent row with Liverpool Council nears a conclusion.

Amid what the local authority described as a “high level” of money owed, the city is seeking funds from traders dating back to 2020. It was revealed in October last year how the market costs Liverpool Council just under £1m a year to subsidise.

As a consultation with traders on a way forward reaches its climax, those at the heart of the matter have told the LDRS how they are getting by.

Last Autumn, Cllr Liam Robinson, leader of the city council, said it was time “traders have to think about how they are going to cover their costs” but wanted to work with individual businesses to help them to ensure they can pay the money owed. There are currently 104 units within the market, with 62 occupied. 

It is understood this is made up of 42 tenants, each paying individually set rates of rent according to previous agreements signed with the council. Traders are being asked to pay back rent and arrears dating back only to 2020 when service charges were reintroduced. 

The council invested in a renovation of the market, located in St John’s Shopping Centre back in 2016. Despite £2.5m being pumped into the site, it was heavily criticised – even by then Mayor Joe Anderson – who initially offered traders three, then six months free rent as an incentive to stay and increase footfall.

In 2020, rent and service charges were reintroduced to traders after little improvement following the botched 2016 revamp of the site and payments were expected. Many of these have not materialised and under the new administration – which seeks to improve the council’s collection rates – plans are changing and bills are being called in.

Michael Newton has run Pets Parlour since the 1990s. As he spoke to the LDRS, just two people walked by the unit but nobody made a purchase.

He said, “It’s grim, it’s very grim. In 28 years before, I’ve not missed a week of rent, then this happened.

“At the rate it’s going, I can’t carry on. When the escalators broke [at the market entrance], we found a new low.

“If I was coming to this as a new starter, I’d run a mile.”

Sam Kayani took over the Power Pack stalls opposite Mr Newton’s from her father Ayaz, giving up her own career in the process. She said most days she’ll only see around three or four customers a day.

She said, “All day it’s quiet, this is how it is.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do, we’ve had a letter to say we need to pay up and go into this consultation. Some of us have rallied together to get a solicitor to respond.

“I think they are being very unfair with this, nobody’s got the amount of money to pay that they’re asking for.”

Fresh letters have been sent to traders reminding them of their obligations and the consultation process it is undergoing with the council to seek an amicable settlement. It is understood this closes at the end of the month.

The second letter is said to give “greater leeway” on the payment period – up to six months – which the council said is intended to “give a good opportunity for you (traders) to negotiate with the council for the way forwards and for you to decide how you wish to proceed for the greatest benefit of your business.”

The current consultation concludes at the end of this month, with Liverpool Council expected to say more on the matter then.

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