Market traders’ anger escalates

Mike O' Connor on his stall on Wigan market
Mike O' Connor on his stall on Wigan market

WIGAN market traders have issued a ultimatum to the council in a dispute about rents and rates.

In the latest instalment in what has been a long-running feud, traders have threatened to pay their rents with a 30 per cent reduction from next month.

This price would be in line with advice given by a market specialist consultant who advises that traders are paying more than those in other markets in the area, they claim.

Mike O’Connor, chairman of the Market Traders Committee (right), said: “Traders, after two years of fruitless negotiations, will take action in order to keep most of their businesses in being as they can longer afford to continue with the present regime which is in effect propping up the council.”

In a letter sent to the Evening Post detailing their grievances, Mr O’Connor explains that before 2010, rates for market traders were included within their rent payment but due to new legislation they were made responsible for paying the bills separately.

Traders had expected the rate cost to be deducted from their rent bill, therefore, but instead found their rent reduced by a lower margin, meaning an overall increase in costs, the traders claim.

Mr O’Connor, said: “Promises have been made over this period but no real effort has been made to deal with the traders mounting concerns, the major ones being rates and rents and the fall in footfall into the market.

“Legal action has been instigated to establish the rates provision.”

Discussions have been ongoing with deputy council leader Coun David Molyneux and Corporate Director Gillian Bishop but these appear to have reached an impasse.

Mr O’Connor added: “Traders were promised a meeting two weeks ago with Steve Normington at which the council’s way forward would be outlined and solutions put forward. At the last minute this was cancelled.

“We regret having to take this action but we cannot continue as we are paying inflated rents for an unsatisfactory return. We hope that Mrs Bishop will use the breathing space to resolve matters and confrontation can be avoided.”

Gillian Bishop, Corporate Director for Places Directorate, says: “Wigan Council is committed to having a successful market in the heart of Wigan town centre. We have worked extensively with traders on some of the matters they have raised and recognise they’ve faced some challenging issues. That’s why we have put a great deal of effort into supporting them and will continue to do so.

“Consultation with traders is on-going and we are hopeful we can find a resolution to the current situation. The council wants to work with the traders to secure a strong, sustainable and successful future for the market.”