A question was asked at this week’s Council meeting about the steps taken to evict a number of traders from Kirkby Market before Christmas. Specifically, it was suggested that as a caring Council seeking to encourage economic growth and development this action was not morally justified or necessary.
A full response was provided by the Council’s Leader, Cllr Graham Morgan. The details are summarised below.
Why did the Council step in to evict some traders?
During the COVID pandemic, Knowsley Council paid grants to the traders at Kirkby Market. This was to ensure that, despite the majority having to cease trading during lockdown, they would still be able to continue to pay the rent charges they were required to. In fact, many traders received more money than the charges they were required to pay.
The majority of traders used the grant to cover their costs during lockdown. However a number did not and accrued significant rent arrears which totalled more than £41,000. Despite numerous conversations and offers to arrange individual repayment plans, this outstanding debt remained unpaid.
In July 2021, the Council wrote to those traders in arrears to encourage them to make repayment plans. This was followed up with another letter in November 2021.
Five months later, the Council was left with no choice but to terminate the license of those traders who had failed to make any arrangements to repay their debts.
Why did the Council threaten to evict traders on Christmas Eve?
The Council had waited five months to allow ample time for the traders to resume their normal face to face business and make steps to repay the debt. Unfortunately in a number of cases, this did not happen.
How many traders have left?
Out of the 17 traders issued with eviction letters, five traders did not make arrangements to repay their arrears and have left the market.
Does the Council have plans to close the market?
No quite the opposite. The Council has recently invested £50,000 in a refurbishment programme for the market which includes repairs and maintenance. This work is ongoing and will be completed over the coming months.
Why is the market so important to Kirkby?
Kirkby Market has been a prominent fixture in Kirkby Town Centre for 60 years and this latest investment secures the market’s position and value in the town. It offers a vast array of services and goods that residents and visitors need and has a loyal customer base from both inside and outside of the borough.
What else is the Council investing in in Kirkby?
The Council has recently invested £43.6m in Kirkby Town Centre. Back in November 2019, it purchased the town centre from a private developer in order to kick-start its development. In just under two years, a 94,000 sq ft retail development has been construction which is home to a Morrisons superstore, petrol filling station, drive-thru Taco Bell and KFC restaurants and a larger Home Bargains. Further investment of £1.660m was also recently secured to upgrade an empty unit at 132 Cherryfield Drive (potentially providing a family-friendly leisure offer) and discussions are ongoing with a gym operator for a large unit on the retail development. In addition, 460 car parking spaces have been provided (free for up to three hours) and just under 500 jobs have been created.
Work is also underway on progressing a multi-screen cinema scheme, complete with three food and drink outlets, on the former Kirkby Library site in the town.