Sheffield markets are still saddled with more than £500,000 of debt – five months after the council began ‘actively pursuing’ the owed cash.
In December Sheffield Council revealed it was owed £517,000 in relation to Crystal Peaks, Parkway Wholesale, The Moor and Castle Markets.
Richard Eyre, head of city centre management at the council, said the figure was made up of £110,000 in service charges written off by the council, £211,000 from a 50 per cent rent reduction and £196,000 in bad debt.
At the time he said the council was ‘actively pursuing’ former traders who owed money.
But the council has confirmed it is still owed £501,762 in relation to city markets – nearly half a year after efforts to recoup the cash began.
Mr Eyre said the council has new processes in place which aim to ‘reduce the outstanding debt considerably over the next 12 months’.
He added the council would consider taking legal action if further efforts failed.
Mr Eyre said: “Whilst we recognise the importance of recovering outstanding debts, we are also committed to helping independent businesses thrive in Sheffield and working hard to deliver a successful, vibrant market.
“We have introduced a revised debt recovery process that includes a range of stronger measures but firstly involves pro-actively supporting businesses by providing expert advice and mentoring from Business Sheffield to get them back on track, and signing them up to a repayment plan.
“If this approach fails we take all measures to recover the debt including legal action.
“In these times it’s imperative that we continue to make every effort to recover aged debt and use every power we have against those who show no inclination to pay what they owe.”
He added: “We are pleased with the initial results of this new process and expect to reduce the outstanding debt considerably over the next 12 months, which we will monitor on a monthly basis.
“We continue to work side by side with all traders to promote the market and make it a great place to shop for quality, value and variety.”
Dia Chakravarty, political director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said it was important to differentiate between law-abiding traders and those who were refusing to pay money they owed.
Ms Chakravarty said: “It is important that the council distinguishes between those who are unable to pay their dues and those who are simply refusing to do so in order to make sure that law-abiding traders are left with a bigger bill than their fair share.
“However, it is also important that rates are kept low in order to ease the burden on hard-pressed taxpayers already struggling with ever-rising bills.”