Doncaster Market rent arrears concerns

Shoppers at Doncaster Markets on Christmas Eve 2015. Traders say even though it looks busy, there are less people than there has been previously and business is the worst it has been for many years.

Shoppers at Doncaster Markets on Christmas Eve 2015. Traders say even though it looks busy, there are less people than there has been previously and business is the worst it has been for many years.

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Councillors have raised the alarm about Doncaster Market’s finances after it was revealed rent arrears have skyrocketed by £50,000 in just a year.

According to a report, missed rent payments on stalls have increased from £8,000 in February 2015 to £58,000 this April.

The data, contained in a follow-up audit review into progress made at the market after a damning report last year, was discussed at a Doncaster Council committee meeting yesterday.

Peter Jackson, internal audit manager, said the figures were down to better identification and recording of debt, rather than a problem with debt collection, but work was required to ensure the situation was brought under control.

Mr Jackson said a new IT system to help tackle the issue had been expected to come into force next month – but it was now likely to be implemented in March next year instead.

Speaking at the meeting, Coun Richard Jones said: “Talking about the financial side of things, £8,000 to £58,000 to me is quite a dramatic amount.

“I think the new IT management system should be in place earlier – next year seems a long time.”

Councillors were told the timescale for the new IT system reflected that the matter was being handled in a joined-up way for market finances as a whole, rather than being carried out in isolation, and that the new system would be an improvement on the old method, which involved using a spreadsheet.

The follow-up report comes after a ‘no assurance’ rating was given – the lowest possible mark – after an audit review in 2014-15.

A number of council staff were disciplined last year after the original report in February 2015, in which a list of failings were identified at the market.

The review revealed progress had been made and the auditors’ opinion had been revised to ‘partial assurance’ – the second best rating.

Coun Austen White said: “I think this report is very reassuring.”