West End traders: “We’re struggling”

Roger Mullin was out to hear the traders' concerns recently.
Roger Mullin was out to hear the traders' concerns recently.

Two west end traders in Kirkcaldy say the council should be forced to share the late fee penalty money it is receiving from the roadworks contractor.

The shopkeepers, who both say they don’t know if their businesses will survive into next year, claim they have asked repeatedly for help from Fife Council towards the cost of their rates, but say they have been turned down again and again.

Willie Hodge of Rugs and Runners and his neighbour Ali Berrwin who leases LA Valente’s chip shop, say the least the local authority could do is share the penalty clause cash it is receiving from Land Engineering, the firm carrying out the improvement works to the west end of the High Street.

“I’ve heard that Fife Council is receiving £13,500 a week from Land Engineering which is running 10 weeks behind schedule,” said Willie Hodge.

“Surely the small businesses which are really struggling should be entitled to a share of that compensation as the works have directly affected us? That’s been almost a year we’ve put up with the chaos which has kept customers away from this end – why aren’t we getting any help? The only person who’s tried is Roger Mullin MP who has written to the Council.”

Mr Berrwin said he had taken the lease of his shop just before the roadworks started and struggled ever since.

“We wanted to build the business up, but we’ve never had the chance to get off the ground. I don’t know how much longer we can keep going,” he said.

“All of this investment should have been spent trying to help the businesses in the High Street instead of this expensive waste of money being poured into the ground. It’s not going to be any use if there are no shops left.”

Mr Mullen said: “I received correspondence from Councillor Ross, council leader, saying the council was not willing to pass on any of the compensation. This apparent disregard towards the financial situation of the traders is simply not good enough.

“Some are now in severe financial difficulty as a direct result of the delayed works, and despite the council’s claim that it is in contact with the businesses and trying to mitigate the impact of the works, this does not appear to be the experience of those who have contacted me.

“I will be looking to discuss this further.”

Councillor Ross told Mr Mullin the damages were to cover the costs for council officers continued supervision of the works and the loss of parking income due to the contractor utilising our car park for their site compound (around £3000 a week).

“The council cannot apply arbitrary penalties and as such the delay damages are subject to challenge until completion by the contractor due to the employer ‘taking over’ parts of the works.”