Council's 'golden hand-shake' could be risky business

VISITOR readers will no doubt be concerned to read that Lancaster City Council is considering giving a substantial amount of our money to a company with a short and shaky trading record.

We understand that it is often accepted business practice to give a 'sweetener' when a large company is moving into a new area. However, we are asking if it would be prudent to give a sum in the region of 400,000 to a company named as 'high risk' by UK Data Ltd.

It would be a huge leap of faith, to say the least.

And at a time when cuts are being made to our services, is it right to be giving our money to a company without a proven business history?

Fair enough if the company in question was a large, national chain with a sound financial background, but that is not necessarily what we'd be getting in this instance.

It's not so long ago that council finances were stripped by the Crinkley Bottom 'Blobbygate' fiasco and in more recent times we lost money when the Icelandic banks collapsed.

A solution clearly needs to be found for Lancaster Market's issues and we are not necessarily against part or all of it being converted for the use of a large store.

However, there needs to be further consultation and any deals need to be made openly.

The traders would like the entire market to be on the top floor and would like to keep it alive.

They would also like to see a large retailer on the bottom floor. This sounds like a workable solution but it will be up to the council to decide today whether or not to agree with the Cabinet's proposal to shut the market and enter into a agreement with a single retailer.

On several occasions our council has gone into business with private companies and it has ended in tears. Is it worth risking it this time?