Has Labour finally reached agreement with the Covered Market Traders?

The Labour city councillor with special responsibility for the Covered Market has been forced to give in to pressure at a public meeting I organised on Wednesday evening.  The meeting was at the Town Hall and was chaired very ably by the very Revd Bob Wilkes, City Rector and vicar of St Michael at the Northgate, the City Church.  I am grateful to him.  All candidates for the upcoming Carfax by-election were invited and all but one attended.  The missing candidate (Conservative) had family care commitments that meant she was unable to attend and she asked me to give apologies which I gladly did.

Photo thanks to Alexander Hammond

Photo thanks to Alexander Hammond

I am  delighted that campaigning by the me, local residents and traders has forced Labour to make this concession.

Labour’s market spokesperson, Cllr Mary Clarkson, said she wanted to settle with the traders at their proposed figure of 16% and “the back-dated rent should be waived.”

Astonished traders in the room were left bemused by Mary’s public commitment to the deal they had originally proposed, and which up to that point had been flatly rejected by the council officers. She went on to say that the system had become “too removed from councillors and traders and far too concentrated with the council’s estates department.”

Reflecting on events around the market I’m just sorry it has taken so long. At the meeting we heard from traders who’ve told us they are and are seriously concerned that they won’t be able to pay their rent.  We also heard from the Labour candidate for Carfax who admitted that their current system for determining rents is and arbitration just leads to surveyors cashing in on taxpayer’s money.  Is that what we want?

I genuinely welcome this new stance as it is something I have strongly campaigned for and is the reason why I organised the meeting on Wednesday. My only concern is that we’ve heard these kind of pledges before from Labour. Previously they agreed to keep the market rent rises in line with the results of the independent arbitrator’s report but, to put it in the words of one of the traders here tonight, they “welched” on the deal.’ Let’s hope they keep their word this time!

One thought on “Has Labour finally reached agreement with the Covered Market Traders?

  1. Tony OX3 says:

    If this goes through it would seem to be a sensible conclusion. I’m glad you raised the issue of paying external surveyors. I’m sure whoever is asked to do the review does it to the best of their ability, but the problem (apart from the cost) is that you’ll get different answers depending on what question you ask.

    Just as a house surveyor/valuer will give you a different figure for probate, quick sale, average market value or top market value, so a ‘fair rent’ assessment for a market trader will vary too. Ask “How can we maximise Council income for x square metres in a prime city-centre location market?” and you’ll get one answer. Ask “What rent for x square metres will ensure the continuation and development of a valued and unique if somewhat old-fashioned resource for local people and tourists?” and you’ll get another.

    Crude examples perhaps, but the point is that who asks the question (Estates, City Development, some other part of the Council?) and what question they ask is very important in reaching a sensible outcome. I suspect that not enough attention has been paid in the past to overseeing this aspect of the relationship with the traders.

    Of course the other option is not to spend taxpayers’ money on surveyors but to negotiate directly with the traders themselves (or their nominated representatives) – a route that will be !familiar to any Councillor with a trade union background

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