West Bromwich Indoor Market traders angry at increase in rent
Furious West Bromwich indoor market traders are claiming council bosses have “done over” stallholders after going back on a promise of a rent freeze.
Traders say a planned increase in October by Sandwell Council breaks a commitment not to raise rents until the number of shoppers also increased.
Last week, Sandwell’s cabinet approved a consultation project as the first step in drawing up a detailed business plan to transform the retail outlet.
Sandwell Council said the market is still making profits for the authority – but the loss of traders has accelerated over recent years.
Paul King, who has run his computer games businesses from the market for ten years, said traders now feel they are being ignored by the council.
The planned two per cent rise will follow the axing of a temporary 25 per cent reduction in fees, introduced by the council in an effort to reverse the falling numbers of stallholders. But traders say the number of shoppers hasn’t grown and the October rise and the ending of the temporary reduction amounts to a 27 per cent increase in their costs.
Sandwell’s cabinet has approved a consultation project as the first step in drawing up a detailed business plan to transform the retail outlet.
But Paul King, who has run his computer games business from the market for ten years. chaired a committee representing traders and said: “The council has done us over big style.
He added market management had worked closely with traders and agreed the 25 per cent rent discount. But in February it was leaked that the reduction would be phased out and in October there would be a two per cent increase.
“We have been faithfully promised by that council on at least a dozen occasions that the rent won’t go back up until footfall came back into this market and that hasn’t happened and that why we feel let down because we believed that every step of the way.”
Dave Griffiths, who has run a pet food stall for nearly 30 years, said: “My big bug bear with the rent is it’s alright them talking about redevelopment but the way it is going, by putting the rent up you are not going to have any traders left to put in it.
“There are people who are going to drop out when it goes up in October, there are established traders in here who are going to think ‘I have had enough now’.” Traders say new developments such as Tesco and the loss of free council car parking has shifted shoppers away from the market.
Mr Griffiths, added: “They need to drag it into the 21st century and, in my opinion, the best thing they can do is relocate to the other side of town closer to the new developments.”
Meanwhile Shafiq Rehman Khan said after 15 years he is giving up his two stalls and moving to Birmingham market.
He said: “They don’t care about our businesses, they just care about their rents.”
Sandwell Council has said that in recognition of the trading difficulties it undertook a strategic review of redevelopment possibilities and while this was happening it applied a 25 per cent fee reduction to indoor market rents.
It added it was made clear when the fee discount was applied that this was a temporary measure only and would cease once the council had decided that it was feasible redevelop the market.
Councillor Bob Lloyd, cabinet member for inclusive economic growth, said: “The cabinet has made it clear that the council is committed to continuing with the indoor market as a valuable local shopping facility but we can only do this if it can compete in the retail market place.
“We have done what we can to help traders with trade discounts but the council is also under pressure due to years of continual cut backs and must be able to operate without incurring significant losses.
“We would be open to any suggestions that traders have to improve trading whilst the redevelopment process is developed and we would encourage the creation of a traders’ liaison group to meet with management on a regular basis.”
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