Council bosses accused of abandoning traders with market rent rise
A market trader has accused a council of “abandoning working class people” after the authority defended plans to increase rent for tenant businesses.
Dave Griffiths, a trader at West Bromwich Indoor Market for more than 30 years, hit back at the decision after telling the Express & Star that Sandwell Council had shown “no consideration” for their businesses by deciding to increase the rents.
Having helped traders by initially waiving plot fees after the outbreak of coronavirus earlier this year to help them stay in business, the authority is now set to increase rent at the site to pre-pandemic levels, as well as adding on two per cent from this month.
Council leader Maria Crompton defended the Labour-run authority's move, saying traders had received £10,000 Government grants amid the pandemic.
She claimed this was the equivalent of two years worth of rent in some cases.
However Mr Griffiths denied this and hit back at Councillor Crompton's comments.
The 49-year-old, from Wednesbury, said: "The grant money doesn’t cover mine or 90 per cent of the other stall holders fees charged by the council.
"In fact, it’s not even close. In some cases, it wouldn’t even cover six months.
"They seem desperate to get their hands on the grant money which was given to us by central government - not Sandwell Council.
"This was to help us while our businesses were closed during lockdown. We also had bills to pay and food to buy."
The move has infuriated other traders, who believe it is part of plans to force traders out ahead of a mooted revamp of the 1970s buildings.
And West Bromwich East MP Nicola Richards urged the council to change their minds on the rent rise when the row first erupted, saying: “I think it is completely inappropriate for the council to increase the indoor market traders’ rent at this time.
“Retail has been hard-hit by the coronavirus and a rent increase now would impact on traders who are slowly getting back onto their feet. I would urge Sandwell Council to reconsider this decision.”
Mr Griffiths added: "I was brought up on a council estate and was always led to believe that the Labour Party, which this council represents, were always my party and stood up for us.
"I’m starting to think I was told a pack of lies.
"We are all working class people in here and we need a common sense approach to the stall fees.
"There are shops within Kings Square precinct that are cheaper per square foot than our stalls.
"I don’t expect to trade for free but the market is in dire need of help or it will lose its core traders which would be disastrous."