Market Stall Holders In Ely Breathe Sigh Of Relief After Council U-Turn
PUBLISHED: 10:35 24 February 2010 | UPDATED: 11:13 04 May 2010
STALL holders on Ely Market have breathed a sigh of relief after a surprise last-minute change of heart by councillors spared them from the accountant s axe. After weeks of assurances from councillors that every avenue had been exhausted and that the supp
STALL holders on Ely Market have breathed a sigh of relief after a surprise last-minute change of heart by councillors spared them from the accountant's axe.
After weeks of assurances from councillors that every avenue had been exhausted and that the supply of market stalls were certain for the chop, a hastily arranged amendment was agreed by councillors on Tuesday evening that handed stall holders a temporary reprieve.
The move came as a shock to many at the full council meeting, with a large public gallery in attendance preparing to deride the council for the way in which it has handled the entire affair.
Chris Davies, stall holder on the craft and collectables market welcomed the move on Wednesday morning: "It was a relief, there were a lot of stall holders in attendance and a lot of us had come ready for a fight, we thought that we were going to be put out of business.
"I am certainly very surprised that an amendment was made, although I wonder if the threat from solicitors forced the council's hand in many respects."
According to the amendment put forward by councillor Brian Ashton, the council has agreed to continue supplying market stalls to traders for the next 12 months while they embark on a consultation to see how the market can be "strengthened and improved."
The £33,000 that was set to be saved by cutting the market stalls will be drawn from the council's reserves.
Mick Stimson, who presented the council with a petition carrying the names of almost 6,000 people who apposed to the council's plans, said: "The reaction of the public has been tremendous, we have received almost 6,000 signatures in just six market trading days and it shows just how much people care about the city and the markets."
Not everybody at the meeting was satisfied with the way the amendment had been handled however, councillor Hazel Williams launched a scathing attack on conservative councillors, "I do not think for one minute that the amendment would have been made if we did not receive a letter from solicitors questioning whether the legality of the decision, she said.
"I get the impression that throughout this whole process the conservatives have not listened to what the traders have been saying."
Ahead of the stall holders consultation getting under way, a Suffolk man has come forward with a solution that could help the council to cut costs while still allowing traders to retain their stalls.
Stall supplier Corey Bunnett has offered to step in and supply and erect stalls for traders to save any further turmoil.
Mr Bunnett, who lives in Kenny Hill, has around 20 large market stalls sitting idly in his garage at home and has offered to transport and set-up the stalls in Ely when required.
Mr Bunnett has provided stalls for Fenland District Council for a number of years but with the demise of several markets in the region, his stalls have been left unused.
"The stalls are in good condition, have nice canopies and are of a good size that would be ideal for traders in Ely who can't afford to buy or transport stalls of their own, he said.
"I would be prepared, if I am allowed, to transport and set up the stalls in Ely for a small fee, if traders want to get in touch with me I would be happy to do that."
A spokesman for ECDC said: "We would have no problem if any of our market traders sourced alternative stalls from any other supplier."
INFO: To get in touch with Mr Bunnett call 01353 675377.