COUNCIL bosses have set aside a £590,000 pot to provide pandemic-hit market traders with half-price rent.
RMBC knows it needs as many sellers to still be selling after Covid-19 and into the new era of a redeveloped town centre markets complex.
Traders have been granted a concession of 50 per cent on rent owed from July to October last year, with charges waived for the rest of the time until full collections resumed at the start of this month.
Council leader Cllr Chris Read said: “This is a substantial commitment to effectively provide a 50 per cent discount over the a two-year period for market traders in recognition of the incredibly difficult trading conditions that they have been in.”
Regular stallholders were paid a total of £961,279 last year from relief schemes to help them mitigate the lost trading days.
A report to Monday’s (21) cabinet said: “Although the financial support was intended to assist businesses with fixed costs, many market traders have not been in a position to put the grants aside for this purpose and instead have used the funding to help mitigate income loss over the last year.
“There is concern within the market service that the recovery of backdated rent due will create serious cash pressure on many small traders, leading to a spike in business closures that undermines recovery of the markets.”
Cllr Denise Lelliott, cabinet member for jobs and the local economy, told members: “Rotherham Markets is at the heart of our town centre and we have plans to refurbish the markets complex, which ties in to our masterplan.
“This proposal gives market traders a helping had in terms of rent to be paid, providing an opportunity to come our of Covid with an many traders operating in the market as possible.
“The support will be a major boost for our traders and is part of out ongoing commitment to the markets, in which the council is making significant redevelopment over the next few years.”
RMBC will look to sublet the library space in Riverside House when it moves to the new markets. This might apply to more freed-up areas in the council HQ, as more staff work from home.
Cllr Lelliott said: “We are doing a review of all the space in Riverside House. We do that as part of our asset management board regularly. We are looking at alternative uses for that space.
“Part of the town centre will depend on having people coming in and working in buildings. So we are looking to use that space to get other people to come in and rent.”