An aggressive ice cream turf war in Leeds has been wiped out by an overhaul of van licences, it is claimed.
However the new hardline approach by council bosses - which can see poor performing vendors stripped of their licences after 12 months - has also priced many smaller traders out of the market and sent pitch prices soaring.
The YEP has reported in the past that ice cream street vendors urged the authority to come up with tougher regulations and a ‘zoning’ system to clamp down on rogue sellers who were flooding the city.
This was after claims that some traders has been threatened and their vans attacked. There were also claims that the trade had been “hijacked by amateurs” - often by businesses from out of town trying to muscle in - with watering down of the product and undercutting being rife.
Now Leeds City Council street trading bosses say that after a tightening up of the competitive bidding process, and a hardline approach on poor performers, there have been huge improvements.
And it is claimed there has been a “significant drop” in the previous “aggressive tactics” employed by some in the market.
However some traders deny this was ever a real problem - and that the real issue is pitch prices have risen to extortionate rates.
The new approach has proved a moneyspinner and has doubled the council’s income from operating licences.
A new council report confirms that the annual value of bids submitted for selling ice cream, fast food and cut flowers in the city’s parks has “steadily grown” from £131,000 to £268,000.
One trader told the YEP that prime pitches like Roundhay Park can now command more than £75,000 for a single van, and this was a 750 per cent rise in a decade.
The council’s own calculations have put a £24,000 value on an ice cream van pitch at Golden Acre Park. But a standard pitch at the majority of venues is priced at just a fraction of that - £500.
The council has just authorised the next raft of competitive tenders for ice cream licences.
A report confirming the extension of the current system says: “Historically we have granted licences which are for 12 months, with three further periods of 12 months available on extensions, subject to a successful annual performance report.
“Those who fail to receive a satisfactory performance report or breach the terms of their contract are not invited to extend and the pitch is offered back to the market.
“This has also improved previous issues relating to aggressive trading tactics, predominantly with ice cream traders, which...has become significantly reduced.”
The report says this new “security” has been reflected in the doubling of the bid values, as well as improving quality for customers and allowing traders to get help from the council “should they observe any undesirable behaviour”.
The document also claims that the new system has been “accepted by traders as a fair operating system” - however not all vendors agree.
Basharat Khan, 30, is part of a family team running the 21-strong Rossi’s fleet of ice cream vans which operate across Leeds and other parts of West Yorkshire. He sells in east Leeds in the Seacroft and Whinmoor areas.
He told the YEP previous “small misunderstandings” between traders had now disappeared.
But he also stressed that the value of bids had climbed to “stupid silly money” - to the point that small firms have been priced out.
He now believes a cap should be put on the value of specific pitches to open up the market to smaller traders,
“We tried our very best but tendering has always been about who you know,” he said
“I know one firm in Bradford who put in a £75,000 bid for Leeds and they didn’t get it. Ten years ago it was £10,000 for the same pitch.
“Even in small parks it’s going up and up. We just concentrate on doing the street work now.”
He admitted the mobile ice cream trade is a “highly competitive business” and that “back in the day there used to be small misunderstandings”.
“It is a lot of money and every year it goes up and up,” he said. “There should be a cap put on it.”