Council defends West Bromwich Indoor Market rent rise

Council chiefs have hit out at claims that they are trying to force West Bromwich market traders out after rates were brought back in after being lifted during the coronavirus lockdown.

Empty aisles at West Bromwich Indoor Market
Empty aisles at West Bromwich Indoor Market

Sandwell Council is set to raise rates from August at West Bromwich Indoor Market to what they were before the pandemic – plus adding an extra two per cent.

Traders say the proposals are "sinister", while MP Nicola Richards has urged the authority to have a rethink.

In defending its move, Sandwell Council said some traders have been given £10,000 Government grants amid the pandemic to stay afloat. The council’s leader, Councillor Maria Crompton, said this was the equivalent to two year’s worth of rent.

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One trader, Dave Jones, who runs D Jones Shoe Repairs, said he think its a "vendetta" and that the authority are "trying to get rid of us one by one, so they close the market down."

West Bromwich East MP Ms Richards said: "I think it is completely inappropriate for the council to increase the indoor market traders’ rent at this time."

Councillor Crompton 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 on to 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. 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."

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