Scrooge council tells children's charity to pay up for market stall

PUBLISHED: 13:06 23 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:43 06 May 2010

A CHARITY Christmas card stall has been ousted from its prime city-centre spot - and told that it will have to pay for the first time this year. Save the Children Fund (SCF) is the one remaining charity to set up beside Barclays Bank in St Peter s Street

A CHARITY Christmas card stall has been ousted from its prime city-centre spot - and told that it will have to pay for the first time this year.

Save the Children Fund (SCF) is the one remaining charity to set up beside Barclays Bank in St Peter's Street, St Albans, for five Saturdays before Christmas and the stall has always been clearly visible to shoppers, motorists and bus-users.

For the past 40 years the district council has allowed charities to have a stall to sell gifts on the Arena side of St Peter's Street but numbers have dwindled and SCF is now the last remaining charity to do so.

But this year SCF has been told that it will have to move round the corner of Barclays Bank losing its St Peter's Street frontage - and it will have to pay £8.50 each week to sell its goods even though it provides its own table and clears up before setting up and when it has finished.

St Albans council's decision on both the location and the charge for the stall is a huge blow for SCF which is manned entirely by volunteers and on a good year can raise as much as £2,500 for the charity.

Trading secretary Pam Roome said: "We have stood there in the ice and snow, howling wind and rain, even sun; our pitch has been bombed and our money has been stolen but still the people of St Albans have supported us."

SCF had asked if they could put up their stall on the other side of the Barclays Bank frontage as a plant stall currently occupies where they usually trade. But the council said it would block the cash machines outside the Royal Bank of Scotland - even though the French market is allowed to pitch there when it is in St Albans.

Pam said they had been offered a place next to the hot-dog stall outside the Town Hall but they had no cover there from the elements whereas they could shelter under the canopy outside Barclays in poor weather.

She maintained she had always been proud to tell other people at national SCF conferences in the past about St Albans council's magnanimity.

But that all changed when SCF applied for its annual permission in early summer and learned of the changes which no-one had notified them about.

Pam said that they always put up the SCF banner on the stall and received plenty of support from the French market traders who even bought Christmas cards from them.

She added: "People see us from the bus and they come back to us year after year."

She said SCF would absorb the weekly cost but pointed out that the sum could provide the nutrition to save a child's life in a famine area over seven days "£1 a day buys a packet of Plumpy Nut and seven days supply can see them over a crisis," she explained.

A spokesperson for the district council confirmed that the pitch formerly used by SCF was occupied by a plant stall 52 weeks of the year which created weekly revenue.

She maintained that when SCF were told of the situation and offered several other locations round the market they expressed no concern about the location.

She added: "They were also made aware, before making a formal application to the markets team, that the cost of a Saturday market pitch was £8.50 for every Saturday they wished to be there and they requested a five-week stretch totalling £42.50.

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