Traders at the open, indoor and rag market are facing a barrage of attacks from the council, which mean the 850 year old market may soon be history.
The past 18 months have been incredibly challenging for stallholders and workers at Birmingham’s world-famous Bullring market. Many traders have not been able to operate due to lockdown with little to no support from the council. Stallholders run the types of small businesses that couldn’t as easily adapt to online sales as many other small businesses could, which means for long stretches of time over the past 18 months they have not been able to make any income.
Now that restrictions are over and the market is back in full operation, the stallholders are being hit again. Not only have the Labour run council demanded the stallholders pay rent for the time of the lockdown this year (when they couldn’t legally operate!), they are now facing an uphill battle in their recovery as the city centre has become a ghost town because of the clean air zone charge, constant road closures, and abolition of many parking facilities near the market.
Birmingham Workers Party was speaking to stallholders in August about the council’s plans to segregate the city centre. Many stallholders were furious but not surprised at the further attacks by the Labour run council. Many stallholders and stall workers are having to pay 8 pound per day to drive their vehicles in the city centre because they could only get an exemption for their car but not their delivery vehicles. Even the people who did get an exemption know it will expire after 12 months and they will be forced to pay up to 50 pounds per week for the privilege of attending their business.
Stallholders listed many challenges they face, not just the demand for months of rent when they could not work, and the CAZ which has massively reduced footfall in the area. The constant construction zone that is Digbeth has led to road closures and lack of consistent public transport services to the area, meaning that even of those shoppers who do visit the city centre, few will travel to the lower side where the 850-year-old market stands. Add to this the increase in online shopping, fast fashion and cheap supermarkets and you can see why many of the stalls now stand empty.
A council that worked for the people would not be demanding rent during lockdown it would be providing financial assistance and relief, it would offer permanent exemptions to stallholders and workers who travel to the city centre not delays to the inevitable, it would invest in showcasing the famous markets across the West Midlands, Great Britain and the world, it would be supporting stallholders and workers to keep this famous market alive and flourishing.
However, we don’t have a council that works for the people. We have a council hell bent on selling off the whole city centre to big business. The endless stream of challenges, setbacks and changes has led some stallholders to believe that the council wants them gone to make way for housing developments, and the actions of the city council certainly point in this direction.
Our message to the council:
Stop demanding rent from lockdown!
No more Clean Air Zone charges!
Save the Bullring Markets!
Labour are on the way to losing the West Midlands. And it’s a reminder to support local businesses.