Hawkers at government markets are being offered a 30 per cent cut in rents for one year to help them survive the economic slump. The move, endorsed by a Provisional Urban Council sub-committee yesterday, came despite warnings the council might go bankrupt because of the $90 million loss in revenue. The markets and street traders select committee voted to grant the one-year rent relief to 10,100 tenants at its 61 markets. Councillors are expected to endorse it at a full meeting next month. An Urban Services Department paper said the committee would still have $100 million for disposal in its three-year budget, which runs until 2000. The money has been budgeted to recruit 276 hawker control staff. The department paper said: 'Each one per cent reduction in market stall rents would result in revenue loss of about $3 million a year.' It said the subsidy in running public markets had risen from $298 million in 1996-97 to $413 million this financial year. Assistant Director of Urban Services Lucia Li Ka-lai said the council would not be able to pump more funds into the committee. The freeze on market stall rents for one year, approved by the committee in April, had cost the council about $29 million. 'We face a tight budget. And we might use up our reserves if we continued making new commitments. In a worst scenario, we might not have money to pay our staff and the council might have to close,' Ms Li said. Councillor Kam Nai-wai accused the department of trying to shirk its responsibilities. 'We should go and ask the Government for more money,' he said. 'Tung Chee-hwa has been talking about helping people overcome the hard time. I think we have a strong point to argue for more money,' he said. Colleague Wong Kwok-hing shared his views and added: 'If hawkers cannot afford our rents and shut their shops, we'll still be losing money in rent.' But fellow member Albert Lai Wing-lin opposed the move. The Federation of Hongkong, Kowloon, New Territories Hawkers' Associations yesterday said it welcomed the decision. Chairman Wut Chiu said turnover had dropped by about 30 per cent since this year.