Report of the Director of Public Protection and Licensing
5.1 The chair noted that the West End Street Traders Association (WESTA) were in the public gallery, and that questions they had submitted in advance had been circulated to members.
Mr Greg Ward, Director of Economy, gave a presentation on the Westminster Markets Strategy. Detailing the scope of the consultation, its main aims and principles and the time lines involved. Ms Acik introduced a report on the Markets Fee and Charges review, which will be included in the market strategy public consultation
· Ms Acik explained that the fees and charges review will only consider recovery of costs associated with dealing with applications (the Application Fee) and costs associated with cleansing, waste collection and costs of administration and enforcement of the provisions of the Act (the Daily Charge). Proposals represent cost recovery only and costs shown at Appendix G of the report represent annual costs in 17/18.
· Ms Acik explained that the City of Westminster Act (Section 22) allows the council to recover these costs and all options proposed are based solely on these costs as defined in the Act.
· The market strategy consultation will also scope ideas for other discretionary services that traders may find beneficial which could include for example, improved facilities, public realm or promotional activities.
· Under the City of Westminster Act, should the majority of traders on a market wish an additional discretionary service to be provided, this can be facilitated by the council. There is the potential for sponsors and partners to fund investment in the services traders want and need.
· Ms Acik explained that Westminster has one of the lowest cost, market-trading pitches in London – currently £10.61 Monday to Thursday, £18.16 Friday and £24.40 Saturday.
· The current fees and charges have not increased since 2006 and there is a deficit on the street trading account; Ms Acik explained that the council is currently subsidising the costs of Westminster’s markets by £300,000 a year, which is not sustainable, and that fees and charges proposed do not seek to recover this deficit, as it is recognised that this would place significant financial pressure on existing traders.
· Ms Acik explained that the options put forward aim to provide a simple fee and charges model that will achieve cost recovery fairly across all traders, encourage local and new enterprise and demonstrate commitment to our local residents, Proposals include concessions on application fees, with a proposal for a 50% discount for start-up businesses (< 12 months registered at Companies House or self-employed with evidence provided) and 20% reduction for WCC residents, with the concession capped at 50%.
· Impact on traders had been considered and Ms Acik directed members to the appendices of the report which provided examples of typical trading patterns and impact.
· Ms Acik sought the Committee’s approval, to undertake statutory consultation on a revised set of fees for the application for a licence for street trading on market pitches in Westminster, and the charges applied for each day that the licence is in force. Ms Acik advised the Committee that the proposed fees and charges will enable the Council to recover its costs in managing and administering the Street Trading licence regime on markets across the City.
· If approved it was proposed that consultation on the market strategy and fees and charges shall run between 6th July – 29th October. Technical surgeries are planned in July for traders to discuss their individual circumstances with members of the Licensing Service.
· Following the full consultation period, the proposed fees and charges will be brought to the November Licensing Committee for reconsideration and if appropriate approval.
5.3 The Chair welcomed the presentations and asked if Mr Ward had considered enticing the fashion and art colleges to take stalls, especially during London Fashion week as an example. The Chair felt that the Council should be giving the colleges an opportunity to display their work. The Chair also raised a question of a sustainability discount, advising that stall holders using non environmental friendly materials (e.g. polystyrene) or hot food stalls where oil is poured down drains and the cleaning up after hot food stalls. The Chair felt that the council may need to consider the environmental impact when considering setting fees.
5.4 Councillor Mitchell raised the issue of tension between local residents and hot food stall holders, as residents have had to keep doors and windows closed due to smells. Councillor Mitchell welcomed the bespoke approach supporting the individuality of each of the WCC markets and was interested in the number of Westminster residents that held pitch licences. He welcomed the fee structure and queried why there had been no fee increases since 2006. Councillor Mitchell suggested that differences such as different areas, types of markets and types of stalls, such as hot foods, should all be considered as part of the consultation. He wished to know if the presentation related to isolated street trading pitches as well. Ms Acik confirmed that the consultation and fee and charges review related to street trading pitches on markets and that isolated pitches were not included.
5.5 The Chair requested information on the City of Westminster Act and fee charges in comparison to other councils. Mr Ward advised the Committee that the key element to the Act is the restriction on pitch use, cleaning, licensing and the general day to day running of the markets. Mr Ward advised that the council had to work within the scope of the Act and there is nothing that conflicts with the Act. Mr Ward advised the Committee that fees are significantly higher elsewhere, e.g. Edinburgh at £80 per day and that Westminster’s fees were some of the lowest in the UK
5.6 Councillor Toki made inquiries as to the surrender of a number of licences from Church Street market. Ms Hick, Licensing Team Manager responded, advising that she was aware and was looking into the pressures due to current works in Church Street Market. Councillor Caplan felt that the report did not cover Farmer’s markets and private markets, and made suggestions regarding the consultation focusing on the whole WCC economy, before coming back to the Committee in November. Councillor Hyams felt that the Council should be encouraging more people to come to the area and visit WCC markets, especially because high streets are struggling. Councillor Hyams also felt that there was more work the Council could do encouraging start-up businesses to become pitch holders
5.7 Councillor Less made inquiries regarding pitch holders who do not turn up and the process for dealing with such incidences. Ms Hick advised that for one off incidences, if the pitch holder informs the Council in advance, then the Council can issue a temporary pitch licence to someone on the waiting list. Ms Hick advised that if this is an ongoing issue then enforcement action would take place. The Committee felt that more could be done to ensure that temporary pitches are advertised early, so that opportunities are not lost.
5.8 Councillor Gassanly asked about the deficit and how this had been dealt with. Ms Acik advised that accounts had been adjusted and deficit had been absorbed by the Council. Councillor Burbridge enquired to the number of current pitch holders who were in debt to the Council. Ms Acik advised it was a small number, and that officers monitor payments regularly. Councillor Wilkinson enquired about the procedure for stall holders when there is bad weather and was informed that if there is bad weather, stall holders do not have to set up; the decision is made by the stall holder.
5.9 The Chair advised that some of the questions posed by West End Street Traders Association (WESTA) has been addressed and Ms Acik would respond to WESTA directly.
5.10 RESOLVED: The Committee felt that the consultation should be wider and include areas as detailed in discussions, before coming back to the Committee in November.
(I) The Committee agreed the recommendations and requested that Mr Greg Ward also attend the Licensing Committee meeting in November.