BARNSLEY Council handed over millions of pounds in cash incentives to lure businesses in a bid to fill its Glass Works retail hub, the Chronicle can reveal.

According to a document, the council spent more than £11.4m in sweeteners to bring some of the biggest names to the town centre’s regeneration scheme.

The figures were uncovered by concerned Hoyland resident Derek Hawkes.

More than £1m went to Cineworld on two separate occasions - a firm which is currently having huge financial struggles, though it is not believed the key signing will close its doors to the public.

Other huge fees include more than £2m to TK Maxx - which moved just metres from the Alhambra Centre - and more than £1.4m to Next.

Superbowl, Sports Direct, The Botanist, River Island and TGI Fridays all received at least £500,000.

The only payments made to local companies included £209,000 to Barnsley Hospital for its Community Diagnostic Centre, £50,000 to Dolly’s Desserts and £53,250 to the Civic.

There are also a number of transactions totalling more than £1.2m handed over to ‘redacted’ companies - meaning it is not known who the firms who received the cash are.

Council bosses, who have not disclosed the recipients of the disclosed cash, said there are a number of reasons why they may choose to not name the beneficiaries.

These include data covered by professional privilege, data that would prejudice commercial interests and data that could jeopardise the safety of an individual.

Council leader Sir Steve Houghton said: “Through the planning and delivery of the Glass Works, we’ve been focused on bringing the best possible offering to the people of Barnsley.

“Capital contributions, such as these, made from landlords to tenants are commonplace across the retail, leisure and hospitality industries, and the Glass Works development is no different.

“The capital incentives paid to each tenant are negotiated individually with incoming tenants, and council alongside our leasing agents have worked hard to make sure that any contributions are in line with industry standards and deliver value for money.

“Although there is an upfront cost, all capital contributions formed part of the budgets set aside for the Glass Works project from the outset.”

The Chronicle contacted the Local Government Association to ask if it was common practice for incentives to be handed to large corporate firms.

They did not want to comment on the case, but confirmed that this is something a number of councils across the country are doing to improve town centres following the pandemic.

The council - currently more than £800m in debt - repay £5m a year for a loan for the new-look town centre, though Sir Steve insists the venture is making money.

When the multi-million pound town centre regeneration was originally touted in 2017, it was expected to cost under £100m to complete.

However, after borrowing a reported £139.3m for the venture, the scheme ended up costing the council a huge £210m.

“With 89 per cent of the development now let, we can see the results,” Coun Houghton added.

“The state-of-the-art technology, incredible fit-outs and a brilliantly diverse range of tenants, from national brands to local independents, have resulted in a 30 per cent increase in footfall for the first seven months of 2023 compared to the previous year.

“We have a town centre to rival any town in the country.”

Cineworld - £2.1m

TK Maxx - £2.1m

Next - £1.45m

Unnamed companies - £1.2m

TGI Fridays - £750,000

Superbowl - £750,000

New World Trading (The Botanist) - £633,333

Sports Direct - £630,000

River Island - £532,000

3C UK Group - £383,500

New Look - £325,000

200 Degrees - £250,000

Barnsley Hospital - £209,000

The Fragrance Shop - £75,000

Barnsley Civic - £53,250

Dolly’s Desserts - £50,000