Councillor demands John Lewis repay £3m 'subsidy' if it closes Sheffield store

A senior councillor says Sheffield City Council must demand £3m back from John Lewis if it closes its city centre store.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 5:00 pm

Shaffaq Mohammed warned the firm must not be allowed to walk away with a huge subsidy from council tax payers if it closes in Barker’s Pool.

Mr Mohammed, leader of the Lib Dems in Sheffield, said he would be ‘bitterly disappointed’ if the shop shut after the council spent so much encouraging the company to stay.

He spoke out after John Lewis announced a £517m loss and warned some of its 42 sites might not reopen after lockdown.

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John Lewis Sheffield

The firm would not rule out closing Sheffield despite the city council paying a total of £3.4m to take over its lease last summer.

The authority also agreed to pay for a refurbishment of the five-storey building.

Mr Mohammed said: “If John Lewis closes that store then absolutely the city council should demand the money back. We need to look after the taxpayers of Sheffield.

“I value it, I’m a regular customer but we can’t allow them to walk away with a huge subsidy from taxpayers.”

Shaffaq Mohammed.

John Lewis is set to announce a decision on store closures at the end of this month.

A spokeswoman said the deal with the council was ‘commercially sensitive’ and she could not provide details.

A spokeswoman Sheffield City Council said they paid a ‘fair price’ for the lease and had then entered a new 20-year lease for the building in return for rent based on turnover.

She added: “John Lewis has always been a part of our plan for the regeneration of the city centre. If circumstances did change, any change to the lease would need our agreement. This gives us the control, which would allow us to continue with our wider ambitions for the city centre.

“As reported in July 2020, the surrender of the old lease and grant of the new lease included a capital contribution from the council towards the refurbishment costs of the building. Monies would only be released to John Lewis & Partners as works to the building were undertaken and completed. No works have started to date.”

Last summer The Star reported the council stating the John Lewis store in Sheffield was ‘underperforming’ and was in line for a ‘comprehensive refurbishment’ to boost its fortunes.

It emerged the authority faced an extra £400,000 bill in tax and legal costs on top of the £3m it paid for the lease.

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.