New threat for market

IPSWICH Market is facing a new threat today after stallholders bid less than expected for the right to run it for the next five years.Last year the borough council offered the traders, who have run the market for five years, the exclusive right to bid to run it for the next five years.

IPSWICH Market is facing a new threat today after stallholders bid less than expected for the right to run it for the next five years.

Last year the borough council offered the traders, who have run the market for five years, the exclusive right to bid to run it for the next five years.

However almost a year later, the lease has not been agreed and signed.

Now it is due to be discussed by Ipswich council's executive committee later this month.

And councillors and officers have been concerned about the low bid that the traders have submitted - and fear they will be unable to accept it.

A senior council source said there were fears that if the council accepted the traders' bid, they could be censured by the official local government watchdog - The Audit Commission.

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The source said: "Frankly we were surprised because the bid is lower than the traders are paying at the moment for the licence.

"But this comes as we are looking to expand the market and improve the facilities for the traders.

"We could understand if they wanted a low fee in the first year to give them a chance to go out and find more traders - but not to start from a very low fee and then just accept inflation-rate increases."

The source said the council would have to consider what its next move could be

He said: "We may have to ask them to go back and reconsider, but that will take more time and if they say they cannot afford any more we will be stuck.

"Or we could open up the tender to other market operators - we have been contacted by operators asking why we have not gone to an open tendering policy.

"Or we could even consider running the market ourselves."

He said there was frustration at Civic Centre: "The council spent a considerable amount of money (at least £60,000) on getting an Act of Parliament so the market could expand.

"We need to see some return on that investment," he said.

Market traders are hoping to discuss the situation with council officers before next week's meeting.

The chairman of the traders' co-operative which runs the market, Mike Young, said they remained confident they could reach an agreement with the council.

He said: "We will be happy to talk to anyone from the council at any time. We are very flexible and I'm sure we will sort everything out."

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