I won't let City Property price charity shops off streets

A COUNCILLOR has vowed no charity will be shut down because of dramatic rent rises and repair bills imposed by Glasgow's controversial council landlord City Property.

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Councillor Kucuk wants a public meeting for affected businesses
Councillor Kucuk wants a public meeting for affected businesses

Yvonne Kucuk said she would fight to ensure voluntary groups doing good work would not lose out because of the changes.

Ms Kucuk, whose ward includes the east side of the historic Glasgow High Street and neighbourhood, said: "No charity is going to be put out on my watch in my ward."

The senior Labour backbencher is planning a public meeting of charities and small businesses affected by rent rises and big repairs bills as factors do up much of the street.

Ms Kucuk reckons help can be found to build fundraising for the charities in the area.

Those affected include The Rooms, an Alcoholics Anonymous base facing closure after being told its rents would rise eightfold and it would have to pay £17,000 for improvements to its building on St Andrew's Street.

But she also hopes to find support for businesses affected by the move.

She said: "We have good news just now about money going in to help the Barras.

"We have hairdressers on the Gallowgate and cafes on Bridgeton Cross that look like something out of the west end. But there's no sense in letting another part of the east end go empty."

Ms Kucuk has already brought together City Property, the landlord, Glasgow Housing Association,which factors the properties, and other parts of the council family, including those able to provide grants.

The High Street has already been hit by huge rises in rent for commercial premises and crippling repair bills. Businesses there formed an association to fight the changes.

Previously the council took the view it was better to lease its property on the cheap - because this helped encourage business in the historic heart of the city.

City Property, which is wholly owned by Glasgow City Council, was created to "buy" around 2000 business premises from the local authority in 2010.

The £120million raised funded a series of controversial early retirement deals. However, City Property had to mortgage the property to pay the council - and now must raise rental income and cut costs to make loan payments.

Steve Inch, the council's former head of development and regeneration, has not been impressed by the changes.

He said: "The policy seems to have changed from 'securing good tenant mix' to 'securing full commercial rent'. That is not good regeneration.

"It is better to have 100% of shops let at 50% of market rent than 50% of shops empty at full rent."

Alison Thewliss is the SNP councillor for the same East Centre ward as Ms Kucuk. She too wants to help traders and charities but fears the damage has already been done.

She said: "This deal has taken millions out of the local economy."

Green colleague Nina Baker last month warned there was no a race on to save the Saltmarket.

She said: "This is likely to be one of the main routes to the Commonwealth Games and its buildings are getting done up and it has new pavements.

"But it is very possible people will walk down these new pavements to the Games past the shutters of empty shops."

Several traders have contacted The Evening Times to say they risk closing because of the rent rises and, especially, sudden repair bills.

Most - including low-turnover businesses such as art galleries - only came to the area to take advantage of what were effectively non-commercial rents. Several firms have said they will now move out of the Saltmarket area, already half vacant. Others, including a cafe, have already closed their doors.

One business staying is the pet-supply store on Osborne Street, Thomas Hay. Its been in its high-profile corner location since 1960 and has no plans to move.

Alberto Nicoletti of the firm said the area had declined steadily since his family business had opened thanks to parking restrictions, the removal of bus services and the closure of controversial Paddy's Market nearby.

Mr Nicoletti said: "There is no incentive by the council for people to visit the area.

"Yet we have seen our rent increase well above inflation levels, introduction of VAT on rent service charges, and a policy by City Property of closing you down if you do not accept the new rent."

HE said thecouncil seems interested in taking as much money as possible.

"We have also now been hit with repair bills to the property, water charges for water going to drains. Nobody wants to listen to our concerns."

A spokesman for the city council echoed Ms Kucuk's sentiments.

He stressed that tenants were bound by the terms of their leases to pay their share of communal work being carried out by GHA - but added that 50% grants were available.

He said: "City Property and Glasgow City Council are working diligently to ensure that the tenants affected by GHA's capital works programme are being provided with the appropriate support and assistance in this matter.

"The impact on both existing and new businesses in the area is of concern and discussions have taken place between representatives of the GHA, Jobs and Business Glasgow, the council and local elected members to review what assistance can be provided to our tenants.

"All parties are committed to working together in this regard and the outcome of these discussions will be the subject of a further communication to City Property tenants in the near future."

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