TOWN HALL chiefs have been accused of ‘strong-arming’ struggling outdoor market traders.
Some stall holders in Ashton have complained about a letter which warns of action including eviction if they fail to regularly attend the market.
In the letter, markets office Phil Edge states that the council have noted that some traders haven’t attended “on a regular basis for some time.”
And they have left stock in the lock up units which is preventing them being re-let.
They have been given until Saturday to return the keys to the Market or face having the locks changed and their remaining goods disposed of.
Coun Don Hodgkinson said that stallholders who received the letter were “very upset.”
He said that some market traders who had been targeted for the communication had a genuine reason for not being able to guarantee 100 per cent attendance.
And he said the council should be encouraging more stall holders to take up the vacant pitches – not harassing those who already use the market.
He said: “One of the stall holders who has received a copy of the letter has a shoe stall at Kirkby which is a much better market.
“Another who received a similar letter has an indoor shop in Greensway less than 60 metres away.
“This communication has upset them and they are threatening to pack up altogether.
“This doesn’t help the traders who attend regularly because the more stalls filled the more customers come to shop.”
Coun Hodgkinson pointed out that at least 14 stalls are already currently permanently closed and many are used for storage by previous market holders who now use other markets.
But the council’s head of economic development, Susan Gambles, hit back saying they are being told by market shoppers that they are disappointed when they make the effort to attend only to discover the stalls they were hoping to see were closed.
She said: “At Ashton Market we have a loyal, hard working core of traders who consistently attend the Tuesday and Saturday market days in all weathers in order to offer their customers a wide range of choice and top quality produce, and providing a friendly consistent service. These concerns have also been expressed by existing stallholders who were justifiably concerned that their trade was being affected by stallholders who are not as committed as them and this has an impact on the overall offer of the market.”
She said that the letter was sent in response to these concerns and included all stallholders who have either failed to attend for some time or to those who are not trading on both Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Ms Gambles said: “We have also been approached by potential new traders who wished to take on any absent units but we have been prevented from allocating them the stall that they wanted as ‘absent’ stallholders were preventing them by using units for free storage.
“Far from mis-management, it is our duty of care as managers to encourage stallholders who aren’t attending to free up the stalls and to behave fairly and responsibly to regular full time traders and our customers.”
l Ashton Ward Local Election candidates: Bill Clarke (Labour); Barry Longstaffe (BNP); Brian Merry (Independent); Paul Tushingham (Independent); Marie Winstanley (Conservative).