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Letter: The New Rochdale Pioneers say stand up and be counted

Date published: 06 February 2017


Dear Editor,

Once again, the Council chooses a commercial enterprise from outside town, which operates from ‘nearby’ Essex. They will become the new Rochdale market operator, or should we say, they will most probably franchise the daily operations out to another provider.

They must have immense local knowledge of what the people of Rochdale require from a market in this town, more than the current market traders who have only 100 or so combined years’ service to their customers.

Buy local, spend local, employ local people; does this actually count for anything? Not as far as our uncaring council goes.

Empowering the community, voluntary, third-sector is one of the council’s goals. In this instance, we would call it an own goal as the councillors we have empowered to do their very best for the people of Rochdale have fell typically short, as they will not stand up and be counted by vocally showing their support for the new Rochdale Pioneers. We won’t embarrass you by publishing your names.

Our cynical side might think it’s because of their recent pay rise, which on the whole, has been gladly accepted other than a few Lib Dems who have a conscience. A couple of terms come to mind of ‘let’s not upset the apple cart’ or ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds’. Well, it’s the people of Rochdale who voted you in and once again, you have let them down.

The New Rochdale Pioneers formally tendered for operator of the new Rochdale market. Heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears was put into the tender document as this was the one and only opportunity that the local market traders had to provide a continued local service to the people of Rochdale.

On reviewing the tender scoring system, we found that a significant number of questions we answered said not enough information, then at the bottom of these questions ‘exceeded word count’ was written.

Does this mean that anything written after the maximum number of words for each question actually count for nothing? If this is the case, then we would say this is totally unacceptable and morally wrong. We have never had to tender for anything before, so a word count isn’t something we feel should be a way of down scoring our answers.

We will formally be appealing this decision as we know that what we offered cannot be topped by a company from Essex nor any other profit-motivated supplier. If the council took off its rose-tinted glasses and realised what this town is about and what the people of Rochdale require, they would realise there are many families who have not got the money to spend, need a market that can supply goods at an affordable price.

There are a number of our market traders who are classed as low earners, £30 in their pocket each day they trade means the difference between survival and a trip to the foodbank. The cost of a market stall under the management of the New Rochdale Pioneers will be affordable because of our non-profit status. This will not be the case if the council goes ahead and employs the services of a profit focused provider.

How can the council lose out if they go down the route of the New Rochdale Pioneers becoming the new Rochdale market operator? There are numerous targets, safeguards, constraints within the terms of the lease, that if not met, then the contract can be terminated. If we were unsuccessful, the council and councillors will still maintain the moral high ground for their support of the New Rochdale Pioneers. Being successful would be a feather in the cap for the council and councillors and would show and prove what a positive, forward-thinking council Rochdale is.

People of Rochdale, what do you want? Our market run by a faceless company based in Essex, or the New Rochdale Pioneers.

Don’t make a decision based on the current, temporary market. This was a temporary market set up by the council without any input from the traders and without basic requirements such as toilets, heating, running water, and the most important requirement - given the weather in Rochdale - a roof.

Stand up and be counted, support the people who have supplied a service to you and previous generations for many decades.

Yours,

The New Rochdale Pioneers

The views expressed are those of the author of the letter and not those of Rochdale Online.

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