St Johns Market arrears rise to £2.1m ahead of extraordinary council meeting

St Johns Liverpool

Arrears owed to Liverpool City Council by St Johns Market traders have risen to £2.1m.

In March this year the council shocked more than 40 traders by closing the market, in the centre of the city, due to outstanding arrears of £1.7m.

It said the decision to cease the 43 tenancies followed a lengthy period of communication with the businesses operating at the Market, to recover more than £1.7m of unpaid rent and service charges dating back to August 2020.

The authority had offered the business owners the option of negotiation over the repayment of the debt, but said it did not receive a meaningful response, leaving it with no option but to close the Market.

As a result of non-payment, the cost to the council of subsidising the Market, which is leased from St Johns Shopping Centre, now amounts to around £1m a year.

However, it has now emerged that the outstanding arrears to the council have risen to £2.1m.

An extraordinary meeting of the full council will be held next Tuesday, May 21, where it will hear a motion by Lib Dems leader, Cllr Carl Cashman, who states: “The sudden and abrupt closure of St John’s Market was a mistake that forms a pattern of behaviour by Liverpool City Council which is not helpful to small businesses.”

It calls for “the Leader and Chief Executive apologise to the St John’s traders for seven years of bungling and incompetence from the council,” and to “continue the legal mediation process to a positive conclusion”.

In a recent BBC Radio Merseyside debate with Cllr Cashman, Cllr Nick Small, cabinet member for growth and economy, said “leases had been breached but stallholders needed to pay what they owed to the council”.

Cllr Cashman responded by saying it was “fantasy” to believe traders would be able to repay the debt in full.

St Johns Market Traders Association said businesses are seeking to legally challenge the decision to close the market.