A GROUP of businesses in Inverness Victorian Market have boycotted a meeting called by town management to explain a new ‘service charge’ on their rented premises.
The accusation emerged as a major overhaul of a part of the market owned by Highland Council is nearing completion and the local authority is looking for traders to set up shop.
The proposed fee will apply to all businesses – both new ones in the impressive renovation of the Halle du Marché and the Halle aux Poissons, and existing traders in the Arcade.
Ahead of Tuesday night’s private meeting, Willie Morrison of Jeweler at Finkelstein, said: ‘I’m not attending and have heard that many of them are also staying away.
“We don’t know exactly what is on offer, and any plans for this so-called service fee should have been communicated to us in writing.
“We didn’t do anything before going to this meeting. I feel like it’s being forced on us on top of high rents and high rates.
He added: “The charge looks like a way to allow our costs to vary each year, most likely upwards.”
However, Mr Morrison conceded: “I’ve seen the new part developed and it’s very impressive, very enjoyable.
“There is no doubt that market footfall will increase accordingly.”
The meeting took place with the participation of a small number of companies.
A council spokesperson said: ‘While several key companies were represented, it was disappointing that other companies did not choose to attend.’
Since the meeting, traders have received details of service charges, and a further meeting will take place in three weeks.
The council has information online about service charges.
It states: “In addition to the rental, the tenant will be responsible for paying a share of the communal running costs associated with the Victorian market through a service charge.
“This will include cleaning, security, waste collection, electricity and general market management. The detailed budget will be communicated to interested parties. The contribution will be collected through the service fee which is collected and administered by a managing agent, Graham & Sibbald.
“Depending on running costs, this will vary from year to year.”
This week the council said that ‘at this time there will be no change to the amount each tenant pays’.
The spokesperson added: “The changes to the contractual arrangements between each tenant and the council will simply allow the council to explain how the rent is used to pay market operating costs and the tenants to comment on it and review and make suggestions, which will be considered by the council as owner.