‘Challenge’ to lift Leighton Buzzard town market from slump

Leighton Buzzard Market
Leighton Buzzard Market

Figures released by Leighton-Linslade Town Council have shown a significant slump in income from the town market over the past two years.

The data was released ahead of a meeting of the market sub-committee and showed that in the financial year of 2013-14, the net income of the market was a healthy £18,582.

The following year, net income had fallen to -£17,816, an overall drop of £36,398 from the previous year.

And so far, the net income for April and May of the current financial year stands at -£2,008.

Cllr Dave Bowater, vice chairman of the market sub-committee, rejected suggestions that the figures showed the market performance wasn’t doing well.

He said: “I am confident that at the end of the year, we will see some form of accountable profit.”

Cllr Bowater added that some capital expenditure had been necessary, and that the figures released did not make allowances for this.

One market source told the LBO: “They should at least explain the loss in income, how do you manage a £36,000 loss in one year?”

Leighton-Linslade Town Council officially took over the market from Central Beds in 2013.

In the report accompanying the figures, it was explained that three markets had been cancelled last year due to bad weather, while a new security contract was commenced the same year.

It further added that the town centre and market officer post had been a part-time position in 2013/14 and had been split with another budget.

It stated: “Whilst the results are mixed, the challenges that the council faces in continuing to develop and maintain a vibrant market in challenging economic times remain. The council is committed to both the market and the High Street.”

The report added that the creation of a development and project officer post would support the “strategic functions” of the market, with a programme of themed markets and other attractions.

One market stall holder told the LBO that there was “room for improvement” in the management of the market, but added: “There is a lot of positives, it is a lovely, vibrant market and one people should feel proud of.”

At the meeting of the market sub-committee, it was proposed to prepare financial forecasts now that three years of performance data is available. A representative from National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) will also be visiting the market to carry out a ‘health check’.

A Leighton-Linslade Town Council spokesman reiterated Cllr Bowater’s comments that the figures alone did not tell the full story. She added that the ‘Love Your Local Market’ campaign in May had been a success, with new carrier bags helping to promote the market.

Town clerk Mark Saccoccio said: “Despite the challenges that come with running any new business, the town council remains committed to the market recognising the added value it brings to the town centre, residents and visitors alike.

“With the continuing help and support of the market traders and their representatives, we will continue to work hard in developing the market offer to the benefit of the town and the traders alike.”