Letter - We’re suffering, just like everyone else is, says council leader

In response to letters last week (July 12) about Wakefield city centre, the UK economy remains in the longest recession in recent history and, sadly, Wakefield is suffering along with every other city centre in the UK.

It is also clear that the North is bearing the brunt more than the South. Wages for everyone in real terms have fallen and all our bills have gone up, as a consequence we are not spending as much and retail businesses in cities and town centres are being affected.

We help as much as we can through rate relief for charities and non-profit-making concerns. But we do not set or control the level of business rates. This is done by central government.

We work very closely with the Wakefield City Centre Partnership - a group that includes independent retailers, as well as Trinity Walk and the Ridings Shopping Centre - to find ways of ensuring our city remains vibrant.

We have plans for the city centre, including the refurbishment and redevelopment of The Springs, which is starting on site next week.

In addition, our small business support grant helps new retailers set up in the city centre and has been running since February with 10 businesses already making use of this. We have also just launched a Shop Front Improvement Scheme Pilot on Westmorland Street and Brook Street to help lift the appearance of the street by encouraging investment over the next 12 months.

In years gone by, markets were more successful than many are today. Wakefield still prides itself on its market stalls and opportunities for traders. We welcome comments and we are always looking to improve what we can offer.

The issues for all our city and town centres are complex but Wakefield is very much open for business and when the economy picks up I believe that our investment in the future will mean that we are in good shape to make the most of the opportunities.

Coun Peter Box

Leader of Wakefield Council