Batley and Birstall’s markets face the chop in Kirklees Council proposals

The busy scene of stall holders in the Market Place at Batley Festival.
The busy scene of stall holders in the Market Place at Batley Festival.

Batley and Birstall’s markets could be axed if a round of cuts proposed by Kirklees Council get the green light.

Spending reductions have been drawn-up to cut £70m over three years, bringing the council’s savings to £152m by the end of the financial year 2017-2018.

The two markets are said by the council to be making losses, but some traders dispute the decision and believe it will have a knock-on effect.

President of Birstall’s Chamber of Trade Anne Thompson, 60, said: “I think it’s another dig at knocking the heart out of small communities. Batley and Birstall are dependent on keeping things like the markets and libraries.

“You cannot rely on community involvement to do everything. A, we don’t have the resources, and B, we don’t have the bodies.

“If you start ripping-out these services you will see a steady decline. I honestly believe this is totally irresponsible.

“It’s desperately sad. We won’t go down without doing something about it.”

Coun Robert Light (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw) has also claimed that the Birstall market is a success which has been close to breaking even.

Chairman of the Batley Business Association Andrew Marsden, 42, said: “The problem I see is that it’s an easy fix. They’re not losing a large amount of money and closing them won’t constitute a particularly large saving. Other services cost a lot more and benefit fewer people.”

But Kirklees Council leader David Sheard said more important areas had to be prioritised, pointing out that the council is already spending £75.6m on child care and £92.1m on adult care this year.

“People don’t realise. All they seem to think about is the dustbins and the street cleaning,” he said.

“If it’s a choice between a loss-making market or museums and keeping people in care there’s not a lot of choice about this.

“Some people have got to start to get their priorities right.”

Coun Sheard (Lab, Heckmondwike) added that if the markets were not making losses then they could run themselves.

Institutions like Oakwell Hall and the Bagshaw Museum could also not be ruled out from facing the chop because the budget for parks and open spaces would be slashed by a third, and only two museums could stay open.

Batley Baths and Recreation Centre and Batley Sports and Tennis Centre could also be under threat because of a possible reduction in the grant to Kirklees Active Leisure, which manages 14 of the council’s leisure centres and pools.

Consultations on these proposals will run from October onwards, and the findings will go back to the council in December or January. A final decision will be made by full council in February.