On the 1st September 2020 a decision was made by the Mayor of Doncaster and her Labour cabinet to offer a financial support package to MAM Doncaster the Management company that is paid to run the markets in Doncaster and Mexborough. This ‘support package’, valued at £910,000, represents an extremely bad deal for Doncaster’s Council taxpayers and is something we are effectively tied into for three years!
Five opposition Councillors, from different parties, felt this decision had been made without fully looking at all other options including bringing the market back inhouse. In 2016 when run by the Council the Markets were award winning but fast forward to March 2020 and the company running them is in a position where it needs support. It must be reassuring for local people to see different parties cooperate on council business! The Conservatives and Mexborough First worked hard to support our local traders!
We carried out extensive research including gathering over 50 letters from traders who all paid full rent through lockdown while most were unable to trade. We found a multitude of reasons why this is not the best decision for the market unless the overall idea is to run it into the ground. Cllr Steve Cox and Cllr Andy Pickering, in particular, researched into several aspects of MAM, all around the UK.
Many people celebrate that Doncaster is a market town and its history is much talked about. But our fear is, in the not too distant future, we will not be Doncaster - the market town, we will become Doncaster ‘the town of eateries!’ Traders who have been there for many years fear this is the end for their businesses as plans to remove stalls and replace our markets with “pop ups” are moved forward.
One trader we spoke to who had been on the market for over forty years but recently made the heart-breaking decision to leave and they feel that the Council have been trying to “get rid” of the traders for years with expensive rents and inadequate support.
James Hart – Doncaster’s Conservative Mayoral candidate respects our markets and he believes Doncaster needs to have a clear vision for their future. A vision that pays homage to the history of our markets at the same time as looking to make them thrive. Our markets need to be accessible, vibrant and the heart of the Doncaster shopping experience!
Despite the work we put in to prove to officers and Labour Councillors, who dominate the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee, they still met on Wednesday evening to be given evidence by the call in group and sadly, nodded the decision through without any substantive revisions or recommendations. The Local Government Association recommends that this committee is chaired by an opposition Councillor to give true scrutiny.
In Doncaster the Labour administration will not agree to have an opposition chair. This means we will always struggle to overturn a decision but this could change in the near future if Doncaster rejects Labour councillors.
Cllr Steve Cox
Cllr Andy Pickering
Cllr Nick Allen
Cllr Jane Cox
Cllr Sean Gibbons