Councillors on a scrutiny committee have given the green light for a private firm to take control of Doncaster and Mexborough markets.
The Overview & Scrutiny Management Committee meeting, which prevented the public and press to attend, have followed a Cabinet decision to award a 25-year contract to Essex-based firm Markets Asset Management.
The Doncaster Free Press was told over 20 councillors from all parties attended the meeting to ask officers some ‘stiff questions’ around the contract.
It’s understood the meeting was held in private due to concerns raised from some elected members around the private operator.
Council bosses claim the 25-year contract will save the council £219,000 per year and will pay a guaranteed income for the local authority of £122,000 from both markets.
MAM has told the council it is committed to investing £2.21 million in the first five years and £3.86 million over the next 20 years in Doncaster Market.
The private operator has allocated £90,000 in the first five years for Mexborough with £2,000 per year for 20 years after that.
Mexborough First group leader Andy Pickering was one of the councillors who is opposed to the plan.
He said: “We’re very disappointed with the decision and we believe it’s the wrong decision not just for Mexborough but for Doncaster as well.
“We think in the long term it will damage the markets because there are similar models that are failing markets all over the country.
“A lot of people at the meeting weren’t right happy and I’d like to thank the committee chair (Coun Kevin Rodgers) for giving us more time than he needed to.
“I felt our case was supported by the majority of councillor at that meeting from the questions they were asking officers.
“The officers were subjected to some fairly stiff questions that some seemed embarrassed to answer.”
Coun Joe Blackham, cabinet member for street scene and traded services, said: “I am delighted the committee has supported the Cabinet’s decision and we can now proceed with the plan.
“The council has made significant investment in the Doncaster markets in recent years and bringing on board an experienced markets operator at this stage will make sure the markets are able to reach their full potential.
“This is about transforming our historic markets and cementing them firmly at the heart of Doncaster and Mexborough town centres.
“This will bring about much needed change, making the markets a vibrant destination for shopping, eating out, entertainment and business and will complement the work being done in the wider town centre, contributing to Doncaster’s unique offer and attracting visitors from far and wide.”