St Johns Market traders react to Liverpool Council’s ‘absolutely diabolical’ demand for rent

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Despite £2.5m being pumped into the market, it was heavily criticised and traders say the renovation has ‘destroyed the place’

Market traders have expressed concerns about plans by Liverpool Council to take back years’ worth of unpaid rents.

Amid what the local authority describes as a “high level” of money owed, the city is to seek funds from traders at St Johns Market dating back to 2020. Currently, the market costs Liverpool Council just under £1m a year to subsidise.

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A report to be discussed by the authority’s cabinet detailed how the council invested in a renovation of the market, located in St Johns 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.

The report said: “However, the use of the market hall has remained very low and, despite the commitment of individual traders within the market, it is not performing as a commercially viable space. Many of the traders are also dissatisfied with the market’s performance, and at present there is a high level of rent and service charge arrears owed to the Council.”

In 2020, rent and service charges were reintroduced to traders after little improvement following renovation 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.

Market traders received email communications from council officials on Monday informing them of the move, with a further two letters expected. Angry and frustrated businesses told the LDRS today how they reacted to the decision.

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“Absolutely diabolical”

Michael Newton has run Pets Parlour for 33 years. He travels every day from Cheshire. He said: “They’ve allowed it to go on for this long, it’s just another dirty trick. They’re just sticking the knife in. It’s absolutely diabolical, I’ve not made anything since it was revamped. They’ve done nothing to help us since then.”

Mr Newton said on Monday, for the entirety of his opening hours he saw just four customers. He added: “I’ve been here 33 years, the revamp destroyed the place. I’m having to use my own money to pay staff, there is no future, who can afford to stay?”

An empty St Johns Market on Tuesday morning. Photo: David HumphreysAn empty St Johns Market on Tuesday morning. Photo: David Humphreys
An empty St Johns Market on Tuesday morning. Photo: David Humphreys | David Humphreys

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.

“They want us out”

Sam Kayani took over the Power Pack stall opposite Mr Newton’s from her father Ayaz. The stall sells a wide range of items from decorations to lighters to watches.

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Sam said she was informed of the council’s decision by email on Monday. She said: “They’re trying to scare us, they want us out. My father built this business up, he was here for 46 years and died during covid. He never missed a month’s rent.

“I gave up my job to continue this business, it’s what my father wanted and it’s now the sole income for our family. There are some days it costs me more in petrol than I make being here. They promised us it would be full, there are five of us here today.”

Lisa Trapasso-Emina runs Lisa’s Reborn Baby next to Mr Newton’s pet offering and has been in the market for seven years. She told the LDRS how afraid she was of what could come next.

She said: “I’m terrified, I can’t get my head around it. If we had to pay the rent, we couldn’t afford to be here. I woke up feeling sick, my hands were shaking.”

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Council response

Cllr Liam Robinson, who was elected leader back in May, said things had to change given the situation the council found itself in. He said: “We do need to address this where we need to start working with traders to start seeing how arrears are paid. We need to start that stage of the conversation. We can’t keep this situation going.”

Cllr Robinson admitted the council hadn’t dealt with the situation “perfectly” in the past but wanted to engage with the businesses in St Johns.

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