Havering Council has hit back at a councillor's claim it will "not fight" for Romford Market after moving closer to axing its Sunday trading.

Graham Williamson, cabinet lead for regeneration and development, said the "desperate need" to stem yearly losses of £125,000 from maintaining the Sunday market had motivated the council's plans to stop it.

The local authority had been accused of giving up on Romford and sending a signal that the town is no longer open for business by David Taylor, Conservative councillor for St Edwards ward.

Cllr Taylor said Havering should wait before the City of London (Markets) Bill goes through Parliament before deciding whether to stop Sunday trade, adding legal counsel had advised against making any changes until then.

Romford Recorder: Cllr Graham Williamson explained losses were the reason behind the plan to stop Romford's Sunday marketCllr Graham Williamson explained losses were the reason behind the plan to stop Romford's Sunday market (Image: Graham Williamson)

If passed, the bill could override the Royal Charter of the Liberty of Havering, a 1247 law which stops the establishment of another market within 6.6 miles of Romford Market.

But Cllr Williamson said legal advice given to the council six months ago was unrelated to the need to address financial losses from the Sunday market now.

He accused Cllr Taylor of trying to score "political points".

“By addressing the disproportionate deficit arising from the Sunday operation, we are working to support and protect the viability of Romford Market across the remaining, and traditional, trading days," he added.

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Cllr Williamson acknowledged that the bill "presently threatens" Romford's market charter.

If passed, Billingsgate and Smithfield wholesale markets would move from their more central London locations to nearby Dagenham Dock.

Romford Recorder: Cllr David Taylor raised concerns about the Sunday market axe plansCllr David Taylor raised concerns about the Sunday market axe plans (Image: David Taylor)

In February 2023, the council lodged a formal objection to the bill, which it previously said would pose a "direct threat" to fishmongers, butchers, and greengrocers at Romford Market.

But Cllr Taylor said: “By insisting on closing the Sunday market anyway, the council are signalling to market traders and residents that they have lost hope in our market and will not fight for it.

"If Romford loses the market, it loses its soul."

Cllr Williamson hit back, saying the council is not seeking to incrementally close the market, instead to address Havering's financial losses.

The council faces a £32.5m budget deficit and has warned it will have to declare itself effectively bankrupt without the granting of a government loan.