All six of Wakefield Council’s markets could be taken over by private organisations as the authority seeks to make savings.
Council bosses have announced a consultation on new ways of running the markets in Wakefield, Castleford, Pontefract, South Elmsall, Normanton and Ossett.
The council said it was seeking views from “external organisations” on their future. The announcement on Wednesday has sparked fears among traders that their rents could rise.
Mohammad Javed, who has worked on Wakefield market for 35 years, said: “It could be another nail in the coffin for the market. Since we moved from the old base, where Trinity Walk now is, it has gone downhill. The rent has gone up and it left some traders struggling, who left straight away.
“I have a feeling that the market would be run better than this because if someone else takes it over, they would have their own interest. But my worry is that the rent might go up.”
Stuart Baker, another stallholder of three decades, added: “I would prefer a council market. I think the council are fair, and I think rents could go up. Plus there may be all sorts of rules and regulations which we could be made to stick to.”
Paul Wilson, who trades at Wakefield, Pontefract, Castleford and Ossett markets every week, said: “I think because I trade permanently on the four markets, the concern for me would be any rent inflation. It depends on what services we would be getting as well.”
Other traders felt that fresh ideas for the market could be a good thing. Lazar Masih, who has traded in Wakefield for 20 years, said: “It depends on what they would do. If they help us, we wouldn’t mind.
“We still want to go back up and trade near the bus station so we would be happy if that could happen.”
Victor Griffin, who has held a stall for about eight years, added: “The market has always been for the public, a place for people to come out and grab a bargain and have a natter.
“As long as those key values remain, it doesn’t matter to me as long as the rents don’t go up. It would be nice to see the market advertised more, promoting what we have got to offer.”
Coun Denise Jeffery, the council’s cabinet member for economic growth and regeneration said the authority would look at “all possible options” for providing the markets.
She said: “We know many of our residents value the role that their local markets play and we are committed to ensuring that the district’s markets remain sustainable in the future.
“But we have to be realistic, and with over £144m wiped off our budget and with more cuts to come, we need to be innovative and open to new ideas. I want assurance that the way we deliver markets gives our residents the very best service.”
Wakefield Council said traders and market staff would be consulted.
In a statement the council said: “The engagement exercise with the external organisations, which have been provided by the National Association of British Market Authorities, will help identify if there are any improvements, new ways of working or opportunities for different delivery models.”
The findings would be considered by the council’s cabinet.
The announcement comes eight months after a controversial deal was agreed to sell Wakefield’s £3m market hall to make way for a new cinema complex.
The council, developer Sovereign Centros and the owners of Trinity Walk Shopping Centre agreed in principle to the sale of market hall, which opened in 2008, last October.
A planning application for a new nine-screen cinema, restaurants and cafes at the site was submitted in March.