ANGRY traders are demanding answers on what went wrong with Spalding’s Red Lion Quarter – as councillors meet to agree a bail out that could cost taxpayers more than £400,000.
Businesses were upset to hear that South Holland District Council plans to step in and clear the debts of the struggling £6.5million centre, which has been run by a separate Community Interest Company (CIC).
Many plan to attend tonight’s cabinet meeting (6.30pm) at the authority’s Spalding headquarters, in Priory Road, with several choosing to protest against the decision already by displaying posters proclaiming: “If my business fails will the local council bail me out?”.
Spalding and District Area Chamber of Commerce president Jason Rooke and fellow member David Norton met with council deputy leader Nick Worth and council deputy chief executive Mark Stokes on Friday ahead of the meeting to air the frustrations of town traders.
Mr Rooke said the discussion was “surprisingly frank and open” and added: “The reality is that unfortunately the council have a dilemma. If they don’t cover the liabilities of the CIC, then the creditors – many of whom are local traders – don’t get paid.
“So perhaps we have little choice but to accept this action for the sake of local businesses.
“However, what I cannot accept is the manner in which this whole project has been managed, and the string of errors and oversights that have led us to this situation.”
He wants to know who was responsible for signing off the business plan for the centre.
He added: “The directors should not have allowed it to get to this stage. It’s clear that questions regarding the hitherto mismanagement need to be directed at them at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday night, and this I intend to do.”
By wiping off a loan, paying debts and setting up a contingency fund the council could spend £338,460 on keeping the Red Lion Quarter running until March.
That option involves shutting the food court until then.
If members would rather keep it open, it will cost £421,145.