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Home » Editor's Pick, Features, Top Story

The Old Market: Financial History

Published by on Thursday, 10 December 20097 Comments

The Old Market Arts CentreRepeatedly over the last decade, The Old Market Arts Centre Trustees, unable or unwilling to service or repay a very large historic debt, have looked beyond its profitable trading position for rescue funding.

At the beginning of this year, in a change of tack, Trustees submitted the first of two planning application attempts which sought to build two large glass penthouses on top of the historic Grade II listed Old Market building in Hove. Approval of this plan would have set a dangerous precedent giving carte blanche to anyone to make unusual changes to listed structures just on the basis of ‘needing the money’. The first application was refused and in September the revised application was also refused. Tellingly, planning committee Member, Cllr Paul Steedman, stated that he was not convinced by the claimed financial need.

In the wake of these refusals, a petition seeking grant support from the council is now being introduced before every event by Old Market manager and trustee Stephen Neiman. He explains that the Old Market does not receive any funding from the council, nor from the Arts Council. He readily admits the Trust covers the cost of its operations, but says it is unable to clear its “historic debt”. An electronic petition (lodged on the council’s website) states that the requests for funding “have been met continually by both organisations stating that although they are supportive of the arts and community use of the building, they cannot support a project with such a capital deficit.

Superficially it appears to be a reasonable request for some financial assistance – but is it all it seems? Prospective signatories are given the impression that neither the Arts Council nor the council have ever donated a penny. Even Delia Forester, ex-Labour councillor and ex-deputy chair of planning, takes as read this supposed lack of public funding in her letter of support for the two glass penthouses.

It is in fact an ungrateful slur on both organisations. In 1999 The National Lottery (through the Arts Council) donated £1 million to the Old Market Trust – at the time, the largest donation to an arts project in the South East. Furthermore the only significant condition was that there would be a clawback should the Old Market be sold within a 10 year timeframe. Those 10 years expired on 11th March 2009 – around the time the Old Market Trustees registered the planning application for the glass penthouses.

In 1998 the Labour administration provided the Old Market Trust with a loan of £275,000, to be repaid in 10 equal instalments. In 2001 that debt was deferred to 2006. Further funding 

came in the form of a £585,000 grant from the 
Single Regeneration Partnership, administered through Brighton & Hove City Council.

The Labour-run administration, in which Delia Forester was a key player, went even further in 2004. Council finance officers Catherine Vaughan and Peter Sargent presented a report to councillors recommending that the loan should be converted to a grant. Their reasoning was that should the Old Market Trust become insolvent Brighton and Hove City Council would be unlikely to retrieve the £275,000, and as they had already distributed the money to the Trust it would “have no additional financial impact on the council”. The report concluded that “The council therefore has no financial gain from pursuing repayment of the loan”. Spurious logic, but the report was approved, and the unpaid debt wiped out.

These actions helped to significantly reduce the “historic debt” to just over £1 million. In 2007, local businessman, Jonathan Bigg, entered into an agreement with the Old Market Trust to take 250-year leases on areas within the Old Market building with the intention of sub-letting them as office space. For this he paid the Trust £1 million, a sum he maintains Stephen Neiman and the Trustees assured him would clear their debt. Having given the money, he then learned that the Trust intended to build two glass penthouses above the areas he had just leased. When he discovered that their motivation behind the glass penthouse plan was again to clear this debt, he was told that his £1 million had made no impact on the debt and that the Trust remained in exactly the same position as before. He asks – quite reasonably – “where has the money gone?

With stories floating around about late payments to staff it seems at least one person is sitting pretty in all this and that is the Old Market’s artistic director, Ms. Caroline Brown. In 2005 Ms. Brown took home £32,500, and in the following year £35,000. In 2007, supposedly at a time of intense financial pressure due to the Old Market debts, her salary rose sharply to £60,535, coupled with expense claims of £17,500. In fact Ms. Brown’s salary makes up a large chunk of total outgoings on salaries. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that Ms. Caroline Brown is actually Mrs. Caroline Neiman, the wife of Old Market manager and trustee Stephen Neiman.

It seems a shame that the Old Market could close its doors soon – it is undoubtedly a superb and successful venue marred by the seemingly poor financial decisions of its trustees. We invite readers to form their own conclusions.

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  2. Old Market Update
  3. Local History: Communal Bins Arrive
  4. History Centre To Stay Open
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  • Valerie Paynter, saveHOVE says:

    The details of actual amounts of money involved and quoted within this article were taken from council documents and Old Market accounts published on the Charity Commission website.

  • Dorothy Carr says:

    I feel we have to keep the Old Market facility open to the public although I cannot put forward any concrete suggestion except to say… a pent house on top would be disatrous in spirit and looks/ . and a bit of money making ploy It is a great source of inspiration as far as I am concerned as an artist and as a local resident. I also feel it has got a bit of a negative aura about it at the moment and could benefit from some fresh imaginative thinking and /maybe fresh blood too/

  • Miss Rachel Neiman says:

    To say that The Old Market is unwilling to pay back its debts is an insult to the years and dedication that all the Trustees, Donors and the Staff have devoted to this arts venue. Since the opening in November 1998 The Old Market has provided a platform for local artists, entrepreneurs and alike to share their talent and enthusiasm with Brighton.

    Why then at this time of economic hardship is there such a decisive and bitter twist on those people that are actually trying to salvage a part of Brighton’s unique and welcoming nature? It seems that in order to have an article published there must always be a twist, a blame factor in every story to perceive someone as the bad guy and the rest as the innocent party. This building has provided a lifetime of opportunity to young and old and has offered salvation through arts to many that may have actually turned to much darker things.

    Everyone has to earn a living, everyone has to provide for themselves and their family and everyone strives to make something from their life. I have witnessed for the last 7 years the undeniable strength of my mother and father to provide for their family, to support their children and to make a business that has given so much to so many people. My father, Stephen Neiman is a role model in all senses of the word. I have never met someone that has put so much time and effort into his work to benefit others. Mrs Caroline Neiman, my mother has equally devoted her life to the arts and strives to encourage music of all types into people’s lives. YES the figures from the charity commission are correct, YES those funds were paid and YES they may to some seem extravagant in times of financial hardship, but I would like to ask whether you actually know how much time and effort Caroline and Stephen have actually put into this building? I ask, do you really know what that money is for ? It isn’t solely for Caroline who, in the line of work that she is in, should actually be earning well over £40,000, this money is split wages for both Caroline and Stephen whom on calculation would actually be earning £16,000 annually. £16,000 a year is the minimum in this day and age and barely covers the costs of living, let alone providing for a family. Whilst these figures need not be answered, they are published, they are transparent and they are accountable.

    I challenge anyone who thinks that they could deal with the situation better than Caroline and Stephen, in fact I encourage those that have suggestions to make them and start to play an active role in saving The Old Market, because before too long this building, that is part of all of us will be lost, and derelict as the West Pier and many other historic building of Brighton are, and will be replaced with a donut on a stick that will obstruct the natural beauty of the town we all live in.

    Maybe the plans for Penthouse Apartments are extravagant and are a different alternative, but can the new Library and the developments in the South Lanes be seen as different? We are living in a time where developments need to be made, and changes to need to happen. Why then can’t these changes take place, not just in our view but in our minds? Rather than slating those that are asking for help, why not offer a hand or suggestion in this time of need?

    Rachel Neiman
    Daughter and Supporter of The Old Market and ALL its Staff.

  • Jim Livesey says:

    Ms Neiman has produced as fine a piece of special pleading as I have seen for a while. Nobody can be blamed for the financial problems of the OMT except the trust itself. Whatever efforts they have made they have failed.

    The attempt to salvage the situation through the “extravagant” (Ms Neiman’s word) penthouse development can in no way be compared to the new library and the regeneration of the city centre, Brunswick Town does not need regeneration, it needs sympathetic preservation.

    And anyone who can add two and two can see that this crass development would merely have postponed the inevitable.

  • Christopher Hawtree says:

    An arts centre is vital to Hove. It would be great to make more of the Old Market rather than let it close, as some appear gloatingly to wish. They are against the spirit of life’s possibilities and, as such, can be discounted. Meanwhile, crucially, why did the Council’s planning dept advise that a “modern”, glass-based design would win favour for the roof of the Old Market? This has set alarm bells ringing about the imminent plans for the Sackville Hotel site.

  • Bill Cowell says:

    We (EBRA) have a link to this page from our own web pages. This has upset Mr. Neiman who has said he is to take to Court the Regency Magazine, The writers of the article and EBRA for linking to it.
    He is unhappy that the facts have been reported.
    All that is reported in the article is fact drawn from Public Records.
    A big change has to come to The Old Market if it is to continue its operations.
    What these changes should be I will leave to The Council and the Public to decide.

  • Ms Mitchell says:

    its really not surprising to those that worked for the old market. if anyone had asked i would have been happy to give them the low down. Big houses, taxi’s from work to home when only 10min walk. dinners out. drinking at the bar having friends drinking with no money exchanging!!!! ‘ staffs wages always being late for weeks. some being payed cash in had. the list is endless!!!! its just such a shame that the venue went as it was a great venue.

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