10 March 2024

Greens on St Albans Council have pushed back against radical plans by the administration to massively increase fees for street traders on the market - increases that would have put traders out of business.
At the Strategy & Resource Committee in March, the Lib Dem Council asked councillors to approve a plan to scrap street trading and instead bring in 4 extra market days a week. Those street traders' fees would then have increased many times over. Concerns were also raised by permanent businesses, the Business Improvement District and the public. 
Clearly feeling under pressure, the Lib Dems announced one change before the debate on their proposals even got started. Then as Green councillor Simon Grover pointed out more and more dubious aspects of the plan, they stepped back even further, ultimately agreeing to allow further consultation and more time to think through alternatives.
There are many stakeholders in the market who clearly did not feel they had been given a chance to voice their opinions on what the Council was proposing to do. Not just the street traders themselves, but market traders, permanent businesses, the BID and of course the public.
Greens' main objections were twofold: firstly the speed at which this was being rushed through, with a short consultation, a quick decision at a committee, then immediate implementation of the new markets and hugely increased charges. Councillor Grover asked what the rush was for, but received no answer on that.
The second main objection was around the income the Council would receive from this. The committee was given no figures for what the revised proposal would bring in, yet we were being asked to approve it. At the meeting, Cllr Grover said this attempt to push the revised proposal through blind was irresponsible and simply wrong. That’s no way for a way for a Council to behave, and councillors should not have been put in that position.
Hopefully now we have the opportunity to think through this issue more carefully and come up with something that works as well as it can for all stakeholders, and doesn’t put local companies out of business.