Mixed reaction to markets plan
Traders and campaigners have given a mixed response to Wigan Council's review looking at different ways of running the borough's markets.
The local authority has been quizzing stallholders for their opinions on how the indoor and outdoor markets could best thrive.
Some have given a cautious welcome to the dialogue but there are different views on whether the current set-up should be preserved or given a shake-up.
Wigan Council has said it has no pre-conceived ideas of how the markets should be run in future, with options on the table including full local authority control, stallholders forming groups to run facilities themselves or private-sector expertise being brought in.
Glenn Furnival, the traders’ representative at Leigh Market, said investment from any source would be welcome but as the Gas Street shopping venue is doing comparatively well stallholders are happy to continue working with the town hall.
Mr Furnival said: "This is a bold move by the council to find out where the problems lie in the structure of the management.
"We are happy to stay with the council in Leigh, the current arrangement is working for us at the moment and Leigh Market is something of a flagship for the council.
"The Leigh traders have built up a very good relationship with the council and we would love for that to continue.
"The only thing which is of concern is re-investing in the market to make it successful.
"It is about 30 years old and needs modernising to move forward.
"The council has seen the market is doing well and left it alone until it needs to intervene, but sometimes you have to put money in year on year to keep it in a good position.
"Market shopping is also sometimes seen as something for the older generation so we need to make sure it appeals to customers and captures the younger market who otherwise shop online or visit supermarkets."
However Jim Ellis, a former independent councillor who championed the markets during his time in the chamber, was more critical of the review, saying Wigan Council was suddenly declaring itself open to ideas which in the past had been flat-out dismissed.
He also called for an official inquiry into the way the markets have been run, claiming management policies have forced traders out of their jobs.
Mr Ellis said: "This is like a rerun of what occurred some five years ago.
"As a councillor I was invited to become involved in a dispute between the council and traders over the rates which we won.
"At the time I also worked with a working group of traders to try to persuade the council to do something to prevent the traders’ exodus from the market and an informal offer to take the market out of the councils hands either to be taken over by the traders or an outside organisation was put forward.
"The problem was I was an independent councillor whose views could not be tolerated.
"The next thing I knew there was Coun Molyneux waving a little flag with the then-market manager alongside boasting about how he was going to save the market, yet nothing has happened.
"From the outset councillors have always viewed the market as a cash cow and would not acknowledge action was needed to keep footfall up.
"Many years ago even the suggestion was made of some aggressive advertising, but when it was tried I couldn’t believe it could be so inept."