Traders shocked at market fees rise
WELL-above-inflation rises in market stall charges have infuriated stallholders who warn that the increases could be the final straw for some traders. St Albans District Council has increased charges on Wednesdays by 7.1 per cent, and on Saturdays by 6.8
WELL-above-inflation rises in market stall charges have infuriated stallholders who warn that the increases could be the final straw for some traders.
St Albans District Council has increased charges on Wednesdays by 7.1 per cent, and on Saturdays by 6.8 per cent.
Stallholders only heard about the increases last week and are furious that they have not been kept in line with inflation.
Ivor Gold, vice-chairman of the St Albans Market Traders Association, said: "It just seems that on top of everything else which has been going on over the last couple of years that this could be the straw that breaks the camel's back for some traders."
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He said the Wednesday market in particular had been badly hit by the work carried out on the safety and enhancement scheme in the city centre which had caused many market traders to be displaced and footfall to go down.
But even though it was now completed, the city centre was as gridlocked as ever and parking was as difficult as ever.
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Mr Gold maintained that the market was "an integral part of St Albans" which attracted people to the city where they spent money, not just at stalls but in the shops as well.
But although there were a couple of hundred stalls on a Saturday and between 150 and 160 on a Wednesday, the market had lost quite a few traders over the last couple of years.
He also said the market was hit by the increasing use of the internet which was particularly hard for those regular traders who relied on the income from their stalls for their livelihood.
Mr Gold added: "Across the board the council is trying to bring in a seven per cent increase whether it is renting garages or whatever. I know for a fact that the stall erecters are only getting a two per cent increase in salary which is the norm across the board and in line with inflation.
"If the council loses more traders and doesn't get casuals to replace them, they don't seem to realise that their income will go down not up."
Cllr Mike Ellis, the council's portfolio holder with responsibility for the market, confirmed that the charges were in line with a general increase in fees of seven per cent which had been forced on the council by the drop in the Government grant to St Albans this year.
He said that the increase in charges for the Wednesday market had been pegged in recent years to allow for the work on St Peter's Street. "Now St Peter's Street is back to normal we are hoping the footfall will increase significantly and will be unimpeded by Herts Highways for some time."
Cllr Ellis stressed that the council knew the value of the market in bringing people into St Albans and it had not been an easy decision to increase charges to such an extent.
But he thought that with new attractions such as the line of trees now in place and commercial operators moving into the Town Hall, there was plenty to bring people back to the market.