Temperature rises in market suspension row

Jeff Thomson of Curried Away
Jeff Thomson of Curried Away

A trader who has been suspended from trading on any Calderdale Council market has called for the council’s markets operation to be reviewed urgently following the decision.

Angry trader Jeff Thomson was a familiar face at Todmorden Market with his Curried Away stall and denies any wrongdoing.

Calderdale Council says it is continuing to try and find a solution to the issue but is sticking to its guns that Mr Thomson breached its rules and it had the right to suspend him, a decision it did not take lightly and as a last resort.

Mr Thomson says that in a near midnight email on March 25, Calderdale Council’s markets manager John Walker accused him of “bringing the markets into disrepute” with immediate temporary suspension from trading. In a further email a few days later, more allegations were made against him.

His temporary suspension remains after months of battling with the council officers over the allegations, which he claims are untrue.

“I totally refute all their claims and have been battling to get the suspension lifted. I lodged an appeal and made a complaint, but under local authority systems, councils investigate themselves, so the outcome was predictable. My appeal was decided by Walker’s boss, Ian Gray. It was rejected without him even speaking to me.

“The suspension was ‘temporary’ but they seem to have made it ‘permanent’. It’s been more like a storyline from the TV soap Eastenders with its fictional Walford market, rather than a ‘real life’ Yorkshire market,” said Mr Thomson. “Calderdale Council is still charging me business rates for storage at Todmorden Market, which shows the markets office doesn’t speak to the rates office.”

But Calderdale Council’s head of planning and highways, Geoff Willerton, said: “The council has a number of rules and regulations which govern the running of our markets. All traders have to follow these as part of their daily letting, to ensure the markets are an enjoyable place to visit and work.

“If a tenant doesn’t follow the rules, the council has the right to suspend them from trading at our markets – a decision that is not taken lightly.

“In the case of Curried Away we had repeated examples of a breach of the rules, so after investigation and as a last resort, we suspended the trader following our disciplinary process. We are keen to discuss the issues with Mr Thomson and resolve the situation, and we have contacted him to arrange a meeting.

“We are not charging Curried Away for business rates on the outdoor market stall. Business rates are only being charged on the storeroom in the market hall for the period before it was vacated.”

Mr Thomson was selling fresh curries and Asian snacks on Todmorden outdoor market for over four years and had introduced a loyalty card for Todmorden customers who he claimed were now being let down.

“I’ve been left with no confidence in the way the outdoor market is run. There needs to be a serious review into the council’s markets operation, while there is still an outdoor market left,” he said.

He added that Curried Away would now be concentrating on weekend speciality markets in Lancashire and Greater Manchester.