Market row rumbles on

ANGRY market traders in Ipswich are today preparing to go to the local government ombudsman as the row over their contract continues to rumble.Ipswich councillors were told earlier this week the borough was preparing to re-advertise the contract to run the market on the town's Cornhill.

ANGRY market traders in Ipswich are today preparing to go to the local government ombudsman as the row over their contract continues to rumble.

Ipswich councillors were told earlier this week the borough was preparing to re-advertise the contract to run the market on the town's Cornhill.

But that has prompted a furious reaction from the traders who have been running the market for more than four years.

Last summer the council agreed to negotiate a five-year deal with them – amid claims on both sides the borough felt the offer by the traders was not good enough.

They decided earlier this year to re-advertise the tender to run the market, allowing the market traders and other potential operators the opportunity to put in bids.

The traders claimed there had never been detailed negotiations with the council – and they have been operating on short-term leases.

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The latest of these expires at the end of this year and the borough has been looking to get a full-time lease signed by an operator – which could be the market traders' co-operative – ready to take over at the start of the year.

Now, however, the traders have decided to take the council to the ombudsman, alleging that it went back on its commitment to negotiate last summer.

Traders' chairman Mike Young said: "The issue for us is that we were given exclusive rights to negotiate with the council over the lease, but the council would not negotiate with us.

"We were forced to put in a bid we could justify, but the council would not talk to us to understand how the bid came about."

He said the traders had spent £12,000 on legal fees in making the bid which had been rejected.

"We told the council that if they went ahead with re-advertising the market we would go to the ombudsman. That's what's happening now."

Council economic development spokesman Richard Atkins was philosophical about the threat.

He said: "If they go to the ombudsman, that's their right. I remain confident that the council has done nothing wrong, certainly since the joint administration took over last September."

Mr Atkins insisted the traders had been given the opportunity to discuss their tender – but they had not responded at the right time.

He said: "We're all very sorry how this has worked out – but everyone at the council wants to work towards running a successful market here."

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