The council has been accused of “destroying a market” by a campaigner hoping to win a seat at next month’s elections.

Dennis Wharton, who is standing as a Conservative candidate in Central Watford, says he has been out and about talking to traders and shoppers in the town.

He says many have expressed “deep concern” about the “declining state” of Watford Market, which is owned by Watford Borough Council.

Mr Wharton said: “The Liberal Democrats have destroyed the market and almost everyone I speak to on the doorstep is very unhappy about the way it has been handled. Our market traders deserve better than this

“The market only moved to its present location in 2014 and the roof already needs repairs. I counted 26 empty units when I visited the market recently one Saturday morning. The council has failed to properly invest in a vital part of Watford’s heritage.”

He says the council should consider moving the stalls to a more “visible, appealing, and pedestrianised” part of High Street.

He added: “The key concerns are poor location and high rents - £1,200 a month. A thriving market in the right part of town would not only enrich the lives of Watford's residents, but also boost trade and the local economy.

“Enough is enough. The council really needs to acknowledge and accept the concerns from the people of Watford surrounding the future of the market and take responsibility for its failings before it dies completely. Only then can we discuss a way forward so the market can be a vibrant and successful market that we can all be proud of.”

He has started a petition alongside his colleagues which demand a ‘rethink’ of the market’s future that will benefit both traders and the community.

Last August, the council stepped in to take over the running of the market after it emerged the previous operators were in financial difficulties. Market Assets Management has since taken control.

Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor pledged to make the market a more attractive place to visit and he continues to stand by this.

He said: “I’m determined to work with all our market traders and our new market operator to make sure the market is as successful as possible. As part of this we’ve made the fees fairer and much more transparent, with around two thirds of market traders having seen their fees frozen or reduced.

“We’re also working on plans to bring in new stalls and brightening up the décor of the market. Watford is a proud historic market town and I will do all I can to make sure we have a successful and vibrant market in the future.”