Market trader asks Wigan Council chiefs for financial help as stalls reopen

A market trader is calling on council chiefs to provide financial support to stallholders returning to work during the coronavirus pandemic.

The borough’s markets were all closed when the lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in March and have only recently reopened.

James Morley, who runs Gremlin Games on Leigh Indoor Market, says several traders have already approached him about asking the council for help.

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They want the local authority to provide support over coming months, perhaps in the form of reduced rents.

Traders on the marketTraders on the market
Traders on the market

But council bosses say they cannot afford to offer financial support as they deal with a funding shortfall due to the pandemic.

Mr Morley, 33, said: “The traders that have come to me have asked for a half-price rent reduction for a month, two months, three months, and phase the rent back in as people start coming back to the town centres. I think that’s reasonable.”

The indoor market halls in Wigan and Leigh reopened on Monday in a phased return.

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Mr Morley said that while the market was busy on the opening day, footfall has already reduced and he expects it to be low for several months.

Traders are being charged rent from the day they return to their stall, with usual rental agreements back in place from July 4.

But Mr Morley, who lives in Higher Folds, says three stallholders have already left and he fears more could follow.

“The council keeps saying that they are supporting our local businesses. A lot of these traders live and breathe the market. We are only asking for a bit of support,” he said.

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Mr Morley, who had intended to stand in this year’s local elections as a candidate for Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley Together, contacted council bosses and was told they could not afford to offer support. He disputed this, suggesting the council could use its financial reserves.

A Wigan Council spokesman said: “We appreciate that not just market traders but many businesses across the borough will feel the negative economic impact of Covid-19.

“From the outset we have looked to support our market traders by suspending rent charges while they have been unable to trade and ensuring grants they are entitled to are swiftly distributed.

“The council is forecasting an in-year shortfall of more than £40m for 2020-21 due to the implications of the pandemic and is therefore not in a position to offer additional financial support.

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“We are still very much in the infancy of getting businesses back reopen and hopefully over time as we continue our recovery, shoppers will feel more assured of heading into our town centres to support local businesses.”

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