Consideration was given to a report which sought to update Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the performance of Marshalls Yard with regard to the contract for support to Gainsborough Market.
Prosperous Communities Committee at its meeting in July 2021, resolved that a report be delivered to Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the purpose being to scrutinise whether the work of the Farmers’ Markets supported or otherwise, the general markets, and whether the original objectives of the contract with Marshalls Yard had been met.
Members were reminded of the context in which the contract had been awarded, namely that the Council had no internal capacity or relevant experience to deliver the proposed event planning or marketing support to the Market.
A previous procurement exercise had resulted in little interest from suppliers to deliver this support to the Council and no bids were received through a formal procurement process.
Further work around the future of Markets in West Lindsey was ongoing with the final report from a consultant expected in late 2021.
Members were reminded of the other options which had been considered and investigated in 2018 and noted the reasons why these had not progressed, as detailed in Section 2 of the report.
The current contractual requirements were outlined, together with the costs to date and a summary of performance, noting the impact the Pandemic had had on the ability to deliver the service, and how, where events have not been delivered, the amount payable had reduced pro rata.
Finally section 4 set out a summary which advised Members contractual obligations had been met, where they had not been met , the associated costs had been amended. Unfortunately the number of traders had not increased although there had been some element of recovery this year, with numbers almost back to 2018/19 levels.
Debate ensued and in response to Members’ questions Officers confirmed this contract was Gainsborough specific, historically other Markets across the District had received no subsidy from the District Council. However, the pending report, referred to earlier, would encompass markets across West Lindsey, not just Gainsborough.
A number of Members, including visiting Members expressed their dissatisfaction at the current arrangement and the contract performance. The value for money was questioned, and it was suggested the true cost to the Council was much greater as a number of Council Officers were still required to support the market despite this contract being in place. Some went as far as to suggest another contractor would be held to a greater account. The position of the market had not changed, attendance was still low and it could not be described as a thriving market place. A number of other local markets were referenced and the fact they had waiting lists for stallholders and that there were active Business Improvement Districts (BID’S) in place, something Gainsborough did not have.
Members also sought clarity as to who had the cancelled the Christmas Switch –on in 2021 and whether its delivery was part of the Contract. The general consensus appeared to be that the Contract had not been successful, had not delivered value for money and that West Lindsey should consider investing in its on specialist Officer to deliver , promote and support the Markets across the District.
RESOLVED that the performance of the Marshall’s Yard contract to support Gainsborough Market be noted.