West End Labour Action Team members Patrick Lilley and Pancho Lewis have called on Westminster City Council to halt the planned privatisation of Berwick Street Market. In a letter to Council Leader Philippa Roe and Cabinet Member Daniel Astaire they say:
“We are writing to express our utmost concern about plans to privatise Berwick Street Market.
Berwick Street Market has been at the heart of community life in Soho for 300 years. Its traders – entrepreneurial, hard-working men and women – have over generations put their necks on the line to grow their business and serve the community, making the market the unique place it is today.
We are therefore extremely concerned that traders are now threatened with having their stall licenses terminated. This is a reckless and potentially very destructive move which could have deeply negative consequences for both traders and the community at large.
What makes matters worse is that there has been very little meaningful engagement and consultation of traders, whose livelihoods are now threatened. The Council has a duty to meaningfully engage and listen to local businesses before decisions are made which can have such a detrimental impact on them.
What is remarkable and so difficult to comprehend is why the Council would press ahead with these plans in the context of enormous disruption to the traders. As you are well aware, the market has suffered a great deal as a result of recent building
developments. On top of that, access to facilities like storage is almost non-existent, making day to day life of traders very challenging.
In this context – of massive disruption to traders, of a total lack of serious engagement and consultation, and of continued threat to the livelihoods of traders – we ask you to implement an immediate moratorium to privatisation plans without delay. This would give independent traders the confidence and security they need to continue to serve the community.
Crucially, a moratorium would afford the community and residents time to make representations to the council on improvements needed to facilities, and to consider their own bid to run the market as a not for profit community interest company.
At the meeting held on Tuesday 26 July the case for a moratorium was made – and made unanimously – by the traders themselves. The Labour West End Action Team attended that meeting and also backed calls for a moratorium. We repeat this call now for an immediate six-month delay to listen to the community.
We look forward to receiving your response.
Pancho Lewis and Patrick Lilley
West End Labour Action Team”