Councillors are due to examine the ‘performance’ of Wrexham Indoor Markets on Wednesday, with Wrexham.com discovering how long it takes, and costs, to change a lightbulb in the Butcher’s Market.
Councillors will digest and perhaps question the contents of a report (PDF here on the Council’s site) which breaks down various performance figures, operating revenues and costs plus promotional activity that has taken place. Other questions could be raised over the efficiency of improvements and repairs, along with the ability to get best value for money for the work that takes place.
The report states: “Markets income has been resilient in two of the markets, but there has been a decline in the income associated with the People’s market. Total projected income in 2015/16 from the three indoor markets is £282,899 and along with projected income from the Town Centre Shops of £35,988, this totals £318,887.
“Estimated expenditure for 2015/16 amounts to £344,790, thus giving an anticipated operating deficit of £25,903. However, the outdoor markets are expected to achieve a net income of £25,903 to offset this deficit.”
The market report notes the impact already felt with the ongoing debate on the Arts Hub and Peoples Market plans: “The proposal to develop an Arts and Cultural space in the People’s market and the public debate associated with it has undoubtedly adversely impacted on the recruitment of traders and footfall in the People’s Market.
“Both the General Market and the Butchers’ Markets will not be directly affected by building work. However, traders believe that negative publicity associated with the proposed development has had a detrimental effect on the footfall in all three indoor markets.”
A 5% drop in footfall is noted, with a disclaimer that the figure is not via firm counter device numbers, as they were deemed to expensive to install, but rather noted by ‘the traders’. This is also the first public note that the People’s Market could be affected by building work.
The ‘public debate’ that is being blamed for the ‘adverse impact’ on the People’s Market first kicked off in August last year with Wrexham Council Leader Mark Pritchard referring to the People’s Market as a ‘a market that is not working’ in a discussion on the Oriel’s move to the market. Other comments, such as the now often mocked ‘pie and chips’ remark, plus two public hammerings by the Chair of the Town Centre Forum, and ongoing claims over lack of communication has clouded the process. On a brighter note it appears peace has broken out, and we were told yesterday of more promising news from those who have seen the final plans.
The nitty gritty of finances is broken down on a per-market basis with 2015-16 projections given, with Wrexham Council’s report stating a 40% rent reduction has been given to some Peoples Market traders due to the ‘uncertainty on the future of the market’:
The Butchers’ market will achieve a total income of £83,924. This is broken down into £60,865 rent and £21,888 Service Charge. There is also an additional £1,171 expected income from storage hire and the recharge of electricity costs.
The General market will achieve a total income of £22,217. This is broken down into £11,662 rent and £10,141 Service Charge. There is also an additional £415 expected income from storage hire.
The People’s market together with 15 associated shops will achieve a total income of £176,758. This is broken down into £63,377 rent for the market, £57,862 rent for shops, and £36,568 Service Charge (service charge is only payable in the market and does not apply to shops). There is an additional £12,000 recharge for other services, £3,008 for storage hire and £3,633 for electricity recharges, and an additional £310 from vending and entertainment machines.
The note on what appears to be a form of compensation reads: “It has been agreed that for the period from September 2015 – January 2016 that the permanent traders will receive a 40% reduction on their rent (not service charge). This is applicable to all traders that are not in arrears. The aim of this is to support the tenants as there is uncertainty on the future of the market. This has resulted in a reduction of rental income of £9,895, this concession is reflected in the figures above.”
Wrexham.com had been told by traders and others of the perceived vast costs charged for seemingly innocuous work, and therefore queries over various elements of the apparent running costs when markets could be formally in profit.
Partially due to this we spent a morning in Wrexham Council earlier this year examining invoices connected to the markets maintenance work via uncommonly exercised rules that allow anyone to ‘inspect and make copies of the accounts and all books, deeds, contracts, bills and vouchers and receipts relating thereto’.
One invoice we saw was to ‘replace faulty lamp and starter’ in the Butchers Market in February this year, in basic terms changing a tube light. Raw materials on one invoice show £5.46 for a 4 foot tube light, and £1.82 for a starter for the light.
The weight of the invoice is made up of labour for an electrician, taking an hour and a half at nearly £23ph to fit and test the light.
Another invoice for ‘attending to faulty smoke alarms’ in the Butchers Market trader toilets lists two 9 volt batteries for a normal £4.72 . Again, the weight of the invoice is made up of a hour and a half labour charge at just under £22ph, presumable to fit and test the changed batteries.
The story is repeated on further invoices, with another lamp replacement taking an hour and a half. A further ‘repair and relamping’ of two lights taking two hours of two peoples time costing over £400.
Indicating the previous repairs were not the higher roof fitted lights, an invoice for one light repair, again taking two people, but this time plus hire of a scissor lift cost £266. We mentioned these cost to one trader, who jokingly said ‘it answers the question to how many men it takes to change a lightbulb’.
Notably, the majority of the traders used for repairs are what we would consider ‘local’.
The invoices also showed how the extra cost crime has incurred to the Council, which comes under the repairs/replacements/maintenance classification for the markets , with a ladder guard to prevent people climbing on the roof costing nearly £300, and roof and skylight damage repair costing £1200.
Aside from our invoice inspection, the report to Councillors also notes promotional activities have increased with various tie ins with NWN Media’s Leader publication are mentioned including the ‘baby competition’ and a ‘market pound’ promotion, along with newspaper ‘editorials’ ‘advertorials’ and wrap adverts are mentioned. A 15 month radio campaign with Heart has been running, along with social media promotions and a new Facebook page.
In related news yesterday, the proposed scrutiny of the Arts Hub plans has been put back to January.