HUNDREDS of people have joined the chorus calling on Tameside Council to drop its demand for full rent to traders on Ashton Market.
Many traders say that could prove a death knell for their business. Now a petition signed by more than 1,000 people – both owners and customers – has now been handed over (via internal post) asking for a rethink.
Dan Costello, who has been to the market five times to collect petitions, said: “Our view is it shows how the council is in the wrong.“Many feel the council and the market management are choking the life out of it.
“The market was closed during lockdown and when the indoor market reopened, only one door was being used, which meant those towards the back of the building hardly had any footfall.
“Now all doors are open again and they’re reporting an increase in footfall.
“They are closing an hour earlier than normal. Many say that means they are losing in the region of £1,000 of trade but they’re still being charged the full rent and service charge. It just doesn’t feel right.
“We understand there’s a pandemic and the market had to close for a period of time, meaning traders would lose a bit of business. But just help them get back up and running again.”
Ashton Market sits on the doorstep of Tameside Council’s headquarters but Dan insisted he has heard nothing from any of the area’s councillors.
“It’s a bit disappointing,” he added. “That’s why we did the petition. There’s a real strength of feeling about this.”
Tameside Council insists it is working with market traders to overcome their issues.
The authority says grants were given out earlier in the coronavirus lockdown and any business owners with debts outstanding, even after they have accessed other Government funds, can agree a payment plan.
A Tameside Council spokesman told The Correspondent: “Tameside Council does appreciate the scale of the challenge that faces all businesses during these unprecedented times.
“The markets’ management has worked in a joined up way with businesses throughout what has been a very difficult time for everyone, and this work has been recognised by the majority of traders who have fed back that the safe systems in place have enabled trade to remain steady, in some cases exciding expectations.
“All traders in our market halls and the fixed kiosks (in Ashton Market Ground) who were within their tenancy on March 11 have received the £10,000 Small Business Grant Fund from the Government. This more than covers three months’ rent for all of our traders.
“We have supported businesses to access the financial support available, which also includes other schemes.
“We are also offering additional support to those traders who have been unable to resolve any outstanding amounts by agreeing to put in place a payment plan.
“In addition, Tameside Council is working across our own services and industry colleagues to support businesses and have a robust communications and business support package and initiatives such as the Tameside Business Resilience Clinic, which offers free advice and support.
“Each council is in unique position when it comes to their financial situation and scope of operations.
“In consideration of this, and without the council receiving any financial support from central government to enable the subsidy of market charges, the income from market rents is essential for the upkeep, maintenance and successful running of our markets.
“Tameside Council is not the only council to have continued to charge these fees. However we are fully committed to supporting businesses to access all the financial support available during these difficult times.”