THE boss of Kirklees Council hit the streets of Dewsbury on Friday to speak to local traders about their successes and concerns.
The council’s chief executive, Adrian Lythgo, visited shops in the Princess of Wales Precinct, Market Place, the Arcade and Foundry Street.
He said: “I come to Dewsbury quite a lot but I wanted to see how businesses are feeling about trading conditions in Dewsbury and we are hearing some good stories about shops accepting the difficult trading conditions.
“There are businesses that have set up recently and there are established businesses that are keeping their heads above the water.”
Mr Lythgo accepted that the challenge for Dewsbury was not just to bring new businesses in to the town, but to keep its existing shops.
Earlier this year Dorothy Perkins closed its store in the town centre and there were concerns about the future of WHSmith in the Princess of Wales Precinct. This is at a time when Kirklees Council is having to cut a large percentage of its budget.
Mr Lythgo said: “These are not issues that are distinct to Dewsbury.
“Money is really important and we have less of it than we did two or three years ago, but the council brings in people as well as money and forms relationships in local communities.
“Pioneer House [now owned by the council, in Northgate] is an example of the council leading by example.
“It will not solve everything, but the fact that work has started on the building is an example of the progress being made.”
Mr Lythgo acknowledged problems that some shop tenants have with absent landlords, but said: “It’s not right to tar all landlords with the same brush, but there are a lot of people who recognise this problem.”
Coun Paul Kane, who joined Mr Lythgo on his tour, said: “I want to make it very uncomfortable for absent landlords in Dewsbury.”
Coun Kane and Mr Lythgo also met with Chantelle Stewart and John Harrison, who shared their experiences of setting up their own firm, Studio Dekka, in Dewsbury.
Despite the problems in the town, Mr Lythgo praised its strengths.
He said: “There are really important things like the market, which is a really important draw.
“Everything from the events in the town hall to the festivals like Dewsbury-on-Sea are important.”