RENTS on Mexborough market must go up to help deal with its £200,000 a year cost to Doncaster Council, says Mayor Peter Davies.
The rents could rise by up to 500 per cent over the next few years, sparking protests which moved forward this week with the presentation of a 4,000-name petition against them.
This week, MP Ed Miliband waded into the row, calling for the increase to be stopped. He has now been presented with the petition against the rises.
Labour leader and Doncaster North MP Mr Miliband said: “I urge Mayor Peter Davies to think again about this 500 per cent rent hike over three years.
“Mexborough market is central to the community so I am urging the mayor to think again and come up with a fairer offer for the traders.”
Mr Miliband addressed a meeting of market traders to give them his support.
But Mayor Mr Davies has blamed Mr Miliband’s own party for the rent rise, blaming them for the current financial position the council is in and for the historic running of the markets, which he says are currently losing the council £200,000 a year.
He said traders were talking about the worst possible figures, and there would be reviews over the arrangement over the next three years.
He said: “They are clearly not happy about the rents going up. But the first thing they have got to see is that Ed Miliband and his party are responsible for the mess that has led to us having to put up rents.”
He said the council was currently paying over £300,000 a year for use of the markets, while traders were charged £13 a week in rent, and Labour councillors had supported the budget he had put forward, which had included the planned rent rise.
He added: “I’ve said that the increase will go ahead this year, but that is 120 per cent. On the amount they are paying already, the actual financial amount of increase is minimal. I said I would review the increase each year.
“We have to save £80 million over five years and we’re trying our best not to cut essential services. Where is that £200,000 supposed to come from? Am I supposed to close an old people’s home, or cut children’s services? This is not a black and white issue.”
Market traders’ spokesman Gordon Smith said a legal case was being prepared to fight the rise in the courts if necessary.
“We can’t believe the ridiculous amounts they’re asking for,” he said. We can’t understand where the figures have come from.”