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West Bromwich market traders say future is ‘bleak’ if rents increase goes ahead

By George Makin | West Bromwich | Business | Published:

Traders at West Bromwich indoor market are calling for senior councillors to see first-hand the impact of rent increases will have on their businesses.

West Bromwich indoor market trader David Griffiths

The ‘come-see-for-yourself’ challenge has been issued as Sandwell Council prepares to increase rents.

Dave Griffiths, who has run his pet food business for nearly 30 years, has written to senior councillors saying the future is ‘bleak’ if the increase goes ahead.

He wrote: “I’m writing to express my utter dismay at the rent increase traders on West Bromwich indoor market will incur from August.

“The decision to not only put our rent up to the pre-lockdown fee but to add another two per cent on top is beyond belief in the current climate.

“It leads me to believe that either the council are out of touch with what’s happening on the high street at the moment or there is something more sinister going on.

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“I would be happy to invite you all down here to look at the many vacant stalls and severe lack of footfall within the indoor market at present. The long-term future, without the council’s help, looks bleak. I honestly don’t think you realise that this is our livelihoods at stake and employee’s jobs.

“We have incurred a five per cent increase over the last two years. Surely some other part of the market service can bear the brunt of another increase? It always seems to fall on traders to bear the brunt.

“I’ve been a trader within the market for nearly 30 years now and I can honestly say I see no future for any of us here. Perhaps that’s the intention?”

In March the council suspended rents on stalls as the lockdown forced indoor markets to close.

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Last month, Sandwell’s emergency committee approved a report recommending the return of charges to 50 per cent of their normal rate in July, rising to 100 per cent in August.

Rents holiday

Prior to the decision, market traders had asked for an extension of the rents holiday to help their business recover from the coronavirus lockdown.

But the committee approved the recommendation after council officers told councillors that continuing to waive stall fees would have a negative impact on the service’s budget.

Councillor Maria Crompton, deputy leader of Sandwell Council, said: “We are aware of the very difficult trading conditions all retailers, including market traders, are having to endure in the Covid-recovery phase we are now going through, which is why the council took the decision at the beginning of the lockdown period to waive all market fees on all of our markets because of that – including the indoor market even though the council still had to maintain the security of the building.

“We have stored stock on site for traders and supported them in operating home-delivery services where they could. The council was still incurring costs throughout this period but we took the decision not to pass those costs onto market traders.

“The vast majority of indoor market traders have received a £10,000 grant to help with their business costs during the pandemic, which, in some cases, is equivalent to more than two years’ rent.

“We hope that has been of help and meanwhile the council continues to bear the costs of operating the markets service.

“We have always taken the approach that we work with our traders – and this was always a response to an emergency situation, and, in the light of this, I would hope that most traders would understand that they need to start paying their rent again now that they are open for business. That was the purpose of the £10,000 grants.

“The Covid-compensation the Government has so far given to Sandwell Council is significantly less than the total economic loss we have suffered.

“In terms of the future for the indoor market, the council is still progressing its redevelopment plans to create a new modern facility that will give market traders the opportunity to thrive in the post-Covid retail environment.”

George Makin

By George Makin

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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