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

Memorandum by Hackney Council (MARKETS 41)

  Thank you very much for your visit to Ridley Road Market on 10 March 2009. We were delighted to be chosen for a visit and be given the opportunity to highlight the issues faced by the local authority in the management of street markets.

We are taking this opportunity to follow-up on your invitation to let the committee have any suggestions which would help improve the local authority management of street markets. We hope that the pack that was prepared has informed some of your thinking. We particularly wish to draw the committee's attention to our observations in relation to the London Local Authority Act 1990 (as amended).

  Although the London Local Authority Act 1990 (ie the sections relating to Street Trading) provides the framework for the council to run markets, in many ways it hinders the commercial development of this enterprise. At present the legislation does not allow the local authority to (a) raise fees and charges to support the development of markets and (b) use the street trading account to support the development of markets. In addition the wording of the sections of the Act (and the amendments) relating to street trading make it a challenge to understand and interpret.

  We would suggest that the following powers are given to London Local Authorities under the current or a new Act to enable the management of markets to be improved.

    — To have the ability to develop the street trading account so that a fund can be built up to reinvest in the market to provide service improvements for both traders and customers.

    — To have the ability to transfer management of markets to another organisation where the local authority do not necessarily have the commercial expertise in-house to maximise the potential of markets. In making this decision local authorities would also look at whether markets could be managed more effectively at arms length from the Council. The traders (Traders Association) could take more ownership of the management and promotional issues relating to their work.

    — To have the ability to develop the street trading account so that markets can be better promoted given that markets need to be able to compete with other retailers. As a local authority our responsibility to manage, maintain and promote markets has to be balanced with our responsibilities to council tax payers, and therefore we are not able to use or promote other retailers like the big supermarkets or clothing chains.

    — To have an ability to suspend a licence if not paid within two weeks. This would stop licensee trading and prevent further arrears.

    — To have similar powers to pursue traders for debts as parking legislation allows in relation to unpaid penalty tickets. At present traders who are in arrears often appeal to court against their revocation thereby allowing them to continue to trade until their case is heard. Invariably these traders continue not to pay and so can amass a large amount of arrears before their court case is heard. In cases where the traders appeal against revocation is not upheld, the trader invariably will not pay their arrears and therefore the authority will need to issue court proceeding to get an order for payment.

  Other suggestions for improving the development of markets and its management:

    — A barrier to entry for the next generation of market traders and to some extent markets staff for councils is training. We'd suggest that bodies such as the National Market Traders Federation take a more active role in promoting this career option and potentially looking to provide training. This could include looking at options for an NVQ standard qualification in all the aspects from legal to customer service that would help traders run profitable businesses.

    — The National Market Trader Bodies could also look at helping councils share best practice. They should seek better working relationships with councils to help them develop their understanding of how markets operate and what facilities and interventions they need to make them successful.

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