Calls for Harrogate district market traders to be given rent reductions shut down by senior councillors
An independent councillor's call for market traders in Knaresborough and Ripon to be given rent reprieves has been shut down by senior Conservatives.
Harrogate Borough Council announced during lockdown that stall fees would be frozen at last year's prices to help struggling traders stay afloat.
The authority also waived fees for stallholders who chose not to return their pitches because of coronavirus fears.
But Ripon Independent's Coun Pauline McHardy said the council should now go one further by offering all traders rent holidays or reductions.
Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, she said: "Over many years the market traders in Ripon and Knaresborough have by keeping the markets functioning made major economic contributions to the areas - and have helped to increase visitor numbers and tourists.
"Now is the time to show the traders they are valued in the same way as the businesses. This could be achieved by way of a reduction in rent or indeed a rent free period over a given time."
Coun McHardy also pointed to some neighbouring councils who have not asked their market traders for rent during the lockdown period.
"It is alright saying we are only charging them what we did last year - they shouldn't have been getting charged that anyway", she said.
"The rent freeze is not actually helping them financially.
"Other areas have been giving them rent free - but our council hasn't."
Coun McHardy also said that many traders were not told by the council that they could apply for government grants of up to £10,000.
In response, Coun Andrew Paraskos, Conservative cabinet member for environment, waste reduction and recycling, said the council had "done the best we can" to help traders back on their feet.
He said: "We have traders in Knaresborough queuing up to be given a permanent pitch which is great and shows what a popular and vibrant market this is.
"Unfortunately Knaresborough has bounced back a lot quicker than Ripon.
"We have done the best we can and hopefully the trade will pick up again."
Concerns were also raised over any future rent increases for traders.
Coun Paraskos said he couldn't guarentee that this would not happen, as he also dispelled "rumours" that the markets will be shut down altogether.
"As far I know we have not proposed any increase for next year but we will have to wait and see when the budgets are done for next year", he said.
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter
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