St Johns Market traders’ chair hits out at rent plan

The chair of St Johns Market’s traders’ association has hit back at plans by Liverpool Council to seek years of rent and arrears.

It was confirmed by the local authority’s cabinet on Tuesday it would seek to recoup years of funds not paid by market traders as it makes changes to its fees and charges policies. Currently, the market costs Liverpool Council just under £1m a year to subsidise.

Colin Laphan, chair of the market traders’ association, said businesses at St Johns intended to fight the decision.

As part of the council’s medium-term financial strategy, rent and arrears dating back to 2020 would be sought from traders at St Johns Market. Rent and service charges were reintroduced to businesses after little improvement following the botched 2016 refurbishment 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. 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 achieve the money owed.

There are currently 104 units within the market, with 62 occupied. It is thought this is made up of 42 tenants, each paying individually set rates of rent according to previous agreements signed with the council.

Mr Laphan, whose own family have a long association with the market, said, “We sent a letter to the council in July 2022 as part of the mediation process. The letter we received is the first communication since then.

“Since then, we have been lied to repeatedly. I think that is beyond maladministration and incompetence. 

“How is this acceptable in any way, shape or form as civilised behaviour? We have made a formal offer before on the record through our solicitors.”

Addressing cabinet over the market rent, Cllr Nick Small, cabinet member for growth and economy, said, “We’ve identified the market is losing around £1m a year, we’ve identified this early.” He said there are “various reasons” behind this and the cabinet wanted to assist traders moving forward.

The council is “exploring future options” according to Cllr Small, who said a report would go to cabinet in future.

According to a letter issued to traders in the historic city centre market, Liverpool Council can only invest in the site when it gets money back from business owners that it has not been paid for the last three years. Currently the traders collectively are in arrears of rent and service charges to a sum estimated to be over £1.7m.

Mr Laphan said he had been left in shock by the plans and was hoping it was a “big mistake.” He added, “We intend to fight this through the court.”

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