Market Failure?: Can the traditional market survive? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations


1.  The situation as regards traditional retail markets in England today is complex. There is evidence of prolonged decline coinciding with the growth of supermarkets. But there is also evidence of continuing success for some in all types of market. There is scope for optimism for the future provided that local authorities and other key stakeholders are willing and able to rise to the challenges that markets will continue to face. (Paragraph 31)

The benefits of traditional retail markets

2.  Specialist markets can add a further dimension to the five benefits identified earlier: economic, social, regeneration, health and the environment. (Paragraph 56)

3.  We see no reason why farmers' markets should not retain their identity within a larger 'ordinary' market, and can see advantages for both types of markets in terms of increasing footfall and creating more of an event feel. We recommend, therefore, that local authorities actively consider the benefits of co-location, though we accept that this may not always be appropriate. (Paragraph 66)

4.  We acknowledge that the use of market Charters to regulate market numbers is a complex issue, but believe that it is one that locally-elected councils are best placed to adjudicate on. We would though recommend that councils treat farmers' markets applications sympathetically given the potential benefits they can offer whether in proximity to existing markets or in isolation. We also recommend that account be taken of the status of the organisation wishing to run a farmers' market, and that consideration be given to reducing fees in the event that the organisation is a not-for-profit organisation with clearly articulated social goals. (Paragraph 68)

Realising the potential of traditional retail markets in metropolitan centres

5.  We recommend that local authorities develop a strategic plan for the development of their markets that encompasses the eight separate qualities we have identified: integration with the town centre and local communities; good management; investment; promotion; a unique selling point; location; partnership working; and lessons from elsewhere in Europe. We further recommend, drawing particularly on the continental approach, that English local authorities consider the advantages of longer-term contracts with private operators if they choose to outsource their market operation, and recognise the importance of long-term commitment—including financial commitment—to their markets. We also see merit in local authorities exploring with NABMA and the NMTF the feasibility of creating broader roles for market trader organisations in terms of managing and promoting their markets, as a means of encouraging innovation in the future development of markets. Finally, we suspect that continental markets have much to offer in terms of managing public space and creating market events and suggest that local authorities consider the merits of market twinning, perhaps as part of a wider town twinning arrangement. (Paragraph 84)

6.  We do not underestimate the size of the challenge facing local authorities seeking to sustain their markets in the current austere economic climate. From the evidence we have received, it seems to us that there are two big challenges: finance and management. (Paragraph 85)

7.  We commend those councils such as Bradford, Bolton and Leicester who have already taken steps to increase and sustain investment in their markets. The challenge now is for more councils with markets in their locality to find the additional investment required to modernise and then sustain their markets in the context of a prolonged period of retrenchment. Ring-fencing market profit for reinvestment in the market, as Bradford have done in recent years, is clearly one option that more councils ought to consider. In addition, by considering markets as part of the wider town centre management agenda and in terms of their ability to deliver a number of strategic benefits, councils may find it easier both to release their own resources for markets, and to obtain financial support from other local and regional partners—for example regional development agencies (regeneration agenda), primary care trusts (the health agenda) and third sector partners (the social cohesion agenda). We recommend that local authorities think laterally and innovatively along these lines. (Paragraph 86)

8.  We recommend that local authorities with profitable but 'tired' markets consider prudential borrowing as a means of revitalising their markets. (Paragraph 87)

9.  A third area that local authorities should, in our view, explore further is joint financial sharing with local market trader organisations, with the proviso that the latter in return gain a more strategic role in the managing of their markets. (Paragraph 88)

10.  We commend those councils who have already identified market champions and urge other councils with markets to adopt a similar model. (Paragraph 90)

11.  We commend the LGA for establishing a market champion and recommend that it work with local councils and NABMA to develop the post so it has a clear and prominent role that adds real value to local council efforts to improve market management. (Paragraph 91)

12.  We recommend that councils review their market management structure and give careful consideration to the most appropriate organisation for them that recognises the need to realise the wider economic and non-economic benefits of markets and gives due weight to the public and private sector alternatives on offer. (Paragraph 94)

13.  We are persuaded that there is a strong case for London authorities to be given greater powers in respect of their street markets. (Paragraph 101)

14.  We recommend that London local authorities and CLG, whose support will be necessary to ensure that legislative change comes into effect, work together to change the relevant provisions of the London Local Authorities Act 1990 and other relevant legislation specific to individual London boroughs. In doing so, however, they should be mindful of the need to include a requirement to work in partnership with market trader organisations on the development of London street markets. Where local authorities gain additional powers in relation to market rents, stall location and management structures, it should be incumbent upon them clearly to articulate their strategic vision for the future of their street markets, and the benefits that will ensue for both traders and the wider community, before they put these powers into practice. (Paragraph 101)

Realising the potential of retail markets in medium and small towns

15.  Councils need to have a clear strategic vision of how they intend to secure the long-term sustainability of their markets. (Paragraph 107)

16.  We encourage those local authorities who retain a market to review very carefully the other options available to them before they elect to close it down. One option, as in the previous section, would be to create a market champion on the council, possibly aligned with the town centre management function. Smaller councils should also explore the feasibility of sharing a market champion to oversee markets in more than one locality. (Paragraph 107)

17.  Given the vital importance—when one or two key stalls can make all the difference—of attracting the right mix of stalls and market traders, smaller local authorities should also place particular emphasis on employing a market operator capable of building up a sustainable market. (Paragraph 108)

18.  The suggestion from a number of our witnesses, which we think is a good one, was that local councils might need to look to the private sector to find such a person. (Paragraph 108)

19.  Given that a 'toby' can run more than one market, we recommend that the local councils of neighbouring market towns consider a cost-saving joint-employment arrangement. (Paragraph 108)

20.  Local authorities should also consider carefully the location of their markets, particularly in the light of the AMT study. (Paragraph 109)

21.  Small decisions can make a big impact, and a heartfelt plea from much of our market trader evidence was that councils needed to include them in consultation when they were considering changes to the market environment—a plea which we endorse. (Paragraph 109)

22.  We see one further option that councils with local markets should explore, namely the potential for greater partnership working, including non-council streams of funding, to further joint goals. We believe that lower tier authorities, possibly in conjunction with upper tier authorities, can—on a smaller scale—pursue the same wider objectives (healthy eating, community cohesion etc) as metropolitan councils. (Paragraph 110)

The industry

23.  We commend the key market industry organisations for the work they have done in recent years to establish a coordinated approach to tackling strategic market industry issues. We recommend that the industry look in particular at how they can provide further best practice guidance and support to lower tier councils operating smaller, local markets and who are more likely to lack specialist market knowledge (Paragraph 120)

The way ahead for central government

24.  We welcome the Government's decision to include markets within its strategic planning guidance and, in particular, the advice to local governments to retain and enhance existing markets. (Paragraph 124)

25.  We urge the Government to emphasise the wider non-economic benefits that markets can bring and to encourage local authorities also to take them into account when making planning decisions, both in the PPS document, and in the future iterations of the accompanying good practice guidance. (Paragraph 124)

26.  It should not be central government's role to intervene in the future of individual markets. Markets are nothing if not local, and it is for local authorities to be the key source of public support. The future of the industry is best served by an active partnership between the key industry organisations, including market trader organisations, and local authorities. (Paragraph 131)

27.  We are concerned however that there is a lack of clarity within central government as to who has overall responsibility for markets, as opposed to an interest in certain aspects of them. (Paragraph 132)

28.  There are actions that the Government could take, beyond production of strategic planning guidance, better to fulfil its proper strategic role in relation to markets. (Paragraph 132)

29.  We are not convinced that there is a sufficiently strong case to appoint a Markets Minister. (Paragraph 133)

30.  We do nevertheless see a need for a clear central government focus for markets, and recommend that the lead should lie with CLG in recognition both of the wider community aspects of markets and the key role of local government. (Paragraph 134)

31.  We recommend, therefore, that CLG takes on responsibility for providing a clear strategic central government focus for markets, and that this is reflected in the portfolio of a named Minister, in the terms of reference of a senior civil servant in the Department and in active engagement with the market industry. (Paragraph 134)

32.  We further recommend that CLG lead an inter-departmental working group to ensure that departments make best use of markets as a vehicle to further wider Government objectives as set out in this report. (Paragraph 135)

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