Burnley Council’s executive has agreed a recovery package to support Burnley Market through the coronavirus pandemic.
The executive agreed a package of assistance to market traders in addition to that already provided by Government. The executive values the work of the market and its long tradition and is doing its best, despite the council's own financial difficulties, to support market traders to get the market on its feet.
Cllr Gordon Birtwistle, executive member for economy and growth said: “Although we are aware that some market traders are not happy with the support package, it is our view that this is a good offer that builds on the Government grant support they have already received.
"It is much more generous than traders occupying privately owned shops will be getting. The council is facing a major budget deficit and we cannot afford to meet market traders demands without cutting services elsewhere and this would not be fair to other council taxpayers in the town.
"Going forward I am happy to meet with a representative group of the market traders to look at how we can make the market hall prosper.”
In response to Government regulations the market closed to the public on the 24th March. During the closure period all market traders benefitted from a £10,000 Government grant and have also been able to access other Government support programmes including the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. The purpose of the £10,000 Government grant is to help businesses occupying premises by helping cover their overheads such as rent.
On top of Government support for the market traders, the council has recognised that difficult trading conditions will be with us over the next few months, and potentially longer and in response has approved a 50% reduction in rent and service charge until the end of September 2020. The council has already put in place social distancing measures and extra staffing to allow the market hall to safely re-open.
The executive made its decision in the context of a projected £3.2m budget deficit for the 2020/21 financial year due to lost income and additional costs as a result of COVID 19. In addition to the projected pre-covid deficit, the market has been in annual budget deficit of circa £82,000 per annum in recent years.
The executive took into account the Government’s Code of Practice for Commercial Property Relationships during the COVID 19 pandemic which urges both landlords and tenants to work together taking into account Government support received by tenants.
Over the last few years the council has invested £130,000 in the market hall to create the new “Market Kitchen”, including an eating area and stalls fitted with extraction to alleviate issues raised by tenants and customers as well as creating new business opportunities. The public toilets and the Curzon Street entrance have also been upgraded. Prior to COVID 19 the council had introduced a “Pre-Loved Market” on a Wednesday in response to demand and a bi-monthly vinyl record market.
Unfortunately, these were put on hold but will be re-instated as soon as we are able to do so. The council is determined to support Burnley Market but like all things, there will need to be changes which reflect the new world of commerce which will undoubtedly arise from the recent experiences of a COVID-19 world.