Council lost £91,000 in market rent during Ipswich Cornhill rebuild
Ipswich Council’s support for the town’s market while the Cornhill was being rebuilt cost the authority £91,000, new figures show.
The council allowed market stallholders to operate rent-free from the closure of the Cornhill at the beginning of February until it reopened at the start of last month.
The council’s audit and governance committee will be looking at financial figures for the first six months of the financial year at its meeting on Tuesday.
These show the council also spent £100,000 on its summer iCard promotion, aimed at encouraging more people to use the council’s sports facilities.
And it spent an extra £50,000 on park security patrols, mainly in Christchurch Park, after reports of anti-social behaviour in that part of the town.
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Senior Labour councillor Colin Kreidewolf confirmed that the cost of supporting the market did go up during the year.
He said: “We initially gave them a three-month rent freeze until the end of April, but this was later extended because of the challenges they were facing over the summer and we ended up keeping it rent-free until the Cornhill reopened in November.”
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Although the Cornhill has now reopened, there are no plans to move the market back to its former position which is now occupied by the “Four Gateways” artwork and the water feature that will be in operation from early spring until the end of autumn every year.
But the re-opening of the Cornhill has increased the number of people walking through the market in its new site – and the food court in Queen Street built up a loyal clientele during the summer.
Opposition leader Ian Fisher said he understood there needed to be some compensation to market traders: “But why make it 100%, why make it completely rent free?
“We know it isn’t exactly a thriving market but by the end of the work traders were saying they were doing as well there as they had on the Cornhill.
“And while I can understand supporting existing stallholders, they were also offering pitches rent-free to newcomers too.
“We know times are tight for local authorities. Why are they not looking to maximise their income? This looks again as if they have no sense of how to run a business.”