Labour Councillors and the West End Labour Action Team have welcomed Westminster City Council’s U-turn on plans to privatise Berwick Street Market following a year-long campaign from market traders who organised a 37,000-signatrure petition against the privatisation proposals.
With just days left before the new market contract was scheduled to start on 1st April, the Council has announced that its privatisation plans are in tatters and that it will continue to run the centuries-old market directly. Previously the Council had defended its decision to privatise Berwick Street Market by claiming that it “did not have the expertise to run a market”. Now the very same Council has decided to ‘take back control’ of its own market.
Over the weekend, Labour Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg wrote an angry email to Council Chief Executive, Charlie Parker, demanding answers to questions about the future of the market. He said:
“Please treat this as a formal complaint about the Council’s failure to deal with the applications from Berwick Street Market Street traders for permanent licences in a timely and efficient manner. Please can you explain why the applications have not been processed and why your staff refuse to answer calls and emails from traders?
I am also appalled at the callous disregard for the jobs and businesses at Berwick Street shown by the Council over the past year and more. Please can you explain why you have allowed the market to deteriorate to the situation where one business after another after another has left Berwick Street?
I am also shocked at the clear indifference displayed by members of the Conservative administration and the incompetence shown by some of your senior colleagues who appear to be totally unable or unwilling to manage the existing market to the benefit of traders, residents and visitors to Berwick Street. Please can you explain why you have allowed this appalling situation to continue.
The new market contract is supposed to start on 1 April and yet, two weeks beforehand, despite repeated requests for an update from traders and Councillors you are unable or unwilling to provide any information whatsoever.
What sort of organisation are you running? Is anyone at the Council taking responsibility for the lost jobs, lost businesses and trashing of the iconic Berwick Street Market brand?”
Following the Council’s U-turn announcement Councillor Dimoldenberg said:
“For the past 12 months, Berwick Street Traders’ lives have been made a misery by an incompetent and malicious Council that has put political dogma before common sense. Privatising the market never made any sense and Labour Councillors and the West End Labour Action Team have been proud to have stood side by side with market traders and local residents in fighting this madness. The campaign continues. We now want to know what new resources will be brought in to the Council to manage Berwick Street Market properly and what new investment will be put in to the market so that it has the necessary facilities to make it a success once again.”
Patrick Lilley of West End Labour said: “These pointless plans to privatise the market have led to enormous stress and anxiety for market traders and their families. On top of that, it’s all been a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money. Indeed, that’s why the West End Labour team is demanding that the Council tell us how much money they’ve spent on this whole process – all of this wasted money could have been spent on other things like easing cuts to youth centres.”
Pancho Lewis also of West End Labour added “We welcome the Council’s decision to backtrack on these privatisation plans. 300 year old Berwick Street market is a historic community asset which brings the whole community together. Frankly though, it’s come far too late and all of this could have been avoided if they’d listened to the community in the first place.”