Will Corbyn find a spine this week?

It was freezing cold in Derby Square but we got on with it. Great to be a part of such a dedicated group of people working together and cross party to fight for Liverpool

Over the past two weekends I have been out with pro EU campaigners from all Parties and none talking to the people of Liverpool about the EU and our membership of it.

This has always been a relatively easy job in Liverpool. Our City as a whole did vote 58/42 to remain. Quite simply the people of Liverpool did not believe the clear falsifications or misunderstandings made by the likes of Nigel Farage; Boris Johnson and Frank Field. They knew how much our City has benefited from the EU getting money for regeneration that no Government of any Party would have given us.

The easy job has got even easier. An opinion poll in November across the Country showed that all 5 constituencies in our City were now if favour of remaining in the EU. An even bigger majority was in favour of resolving the issues was to have a second vote on the facts now that people know what the deal is compared to what we have now.

Yesterday I was pleased to stand alongside both Labour MP Louise Ellman and Green Councillor Tom Crone to suggest what should happen next. I often disagree with both of them on policy but on this, the most important issue of our generation,we were in complete agreement.

Firstly, the deal that is on the table that has been negotiated by Theresa May is the best we are going to get. But it is not a good deal. It will mean huge problems for food supplies for farmers, for the fishing community for employment in manufacturing industries and for growth in the economy. This must surely be a key message for anyone in the Tory Party.

Secondly, but just as importantly it makes it decision time for the Labour Party. I don’t know whether Corbyn and his acolytes are stupid; incapable of making up their mind or have a cunning plan to let us crash out of the EU so that they can try to create a socialist nirvana. We now know officially what most of have known for 2.5 years. The EU have a series of rules agreed by all nations, including us and their ability or even wish to change them on our behalf is limited.There is no point in May going back but there is also no point in Corbyn pretending that his dream deal is at all possible. It just isn’t.

This point was repeatedly made by Louise Ellman although she was more diplomatic than I was about a fairy tale Corbyn deal. This is not an interesting constitutional debating point. Lib Dems want to spend more money on health; social care; the environment; education; council services. So, we understand do Labour. The problem is that if we leave the EU even on the negotiated deal of May the economy will weaken; jobs and businesses will lost; taxes will be lost and we will have even less money to spend on those vital services.

So, the way forward to Louise, Tom and I was absolutely clear:

  1. We need to stay in the EU but, just as there is no majority for any possible deal in Parliament so it is unlikely that there is a majority for this. So, if the MPs and Peers cannot make up their mind, we need to invoke plan B!
  2. The way to achieve this is to go back to the people with a first referendum on the facts. Or as we call it a People’s Vote.

I will be tabling a motion to council about this on 18th January and hope that it will get support from all Councillors. There is a saying, “now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the Party”. That saying is wholly inappropriate in these circumstances. We must put Party loyalties behind us and work together to save our Country. If we leave the cost and time needed for re-entry will be horrific.

We have just 100 days to go before we crash out. A crash out or May’s deal will hit everyone but it will especially impact adversely on the poorest in our Community. There is still time to stop this happening but it will happen unless Corbyn and his inner sanctum forget their dream of as socialist state; come down to Planet Earth to see what is possible and what is not and commit themselves to working with Lib Dems Nationalists; Green and yes, even good Tories like Kenneth Clarke and Dominic Grieve.

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Reinvigorated by our World Merit Global Ambassadors

Members of the World Merit Global Council relaxing after a hard day’s work. They come from countries as big as India and as small as St Lucia; from Muslim countries like Yemen and Egypt to Christian based Countries such as Canada and Holland. There is a great mix of men and women and they work together as one impressive team

Sometimes, just sometimes, I feel a little jaded. A feeling of déjà vu overtakes me when I think I am sure that I have done this before and then really remember that I have. 51 years in politics is a long time to keep the flame burning and the positivity flowing.

Sometimes, that spirit gets recharged by the growing vitality of our Party in Liverpool.The insults; jokes and sheer hard work are demonstrated on our campaigners “What’s App” stream. Our candidates and their supporters are hard at it out on the streets; campaigning; delivering and door knocking.

But I also have another source of re invigoration. The work I do as chair of World Merit, the Liverpool based none profit making company that, which helps young people throughout the world connect to each other. They do this by helping to deliver the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in their own community. We call our ‘members’ change makers because that is what they do. They work locally to change and improve their community and then work together to inform themselves and then inform a range of local, national and global bodies as to the opinions of young people and the things that can be done to bring young people indecision making positions.

They then get opportunities to come together virtually on our website (www.worldmerit.org)and other platforms and physically though our Merit360 programmes which will betaking place in 2019 in Chester/London and Mexico. Other opportunities will present themselves such as being the youth component of the Estoril Conference in May and a meeting of 1,000 World Merit delegates in Morocco in March.

For two days this week I have been in Portugal where World Merit had a team of young people who are part of our Global Council. Although our change makers do not get involved in the day to day business of running the Company and finding finance etc they are very much involved in developing the strategies of the organisation. 11 members of our Global Council not only met to advise us and to interact with each other but also to compete to be our Global Ambassador for 2019.

The competition was hot for this because our Ambassador will spend a lot of time travelling the World; meeting World Merit change makers in a variety of ways and representing our change makers in a variety of forums including the United Nations. In the end we could have made any of them our Global Ambassador.

They had some really great projects which are already up and running but which they want to expand.

Shaan from India has been working on a greater programme for encouragement and empowerment for people, especially girls, from poor parts to India to enter school;

This was similar theme for Odwa from South Africa who was trying to find resources to pay for meals for hungry children who cannot think or concentrate at school because they are hungry.

Sietske from Holland was working in schools to encourage them to think through some of the consequences of climate change in their day to day lessons

Tatiana from Zimbabwe was also thinking of schools. She has designed a range of children’s books; activities and clothes to be manufactured in a poor area. The profits will be used to fund school places. If you are interested in selling some of these products let me know!

Beth from Canada reminded us with a homeless project in Toronto that poverty has a major presence in many of our Cities in the developed world. What she did and what she intends to do reminded me so much of the problems on Liverpool’s street.

All the 11 had good projects which they had started to deliver and wanted to expand. They were all under 23 (they made me feel terribly old!). They were so very, very enthusiastic and when they got together created a real buzz of activity which expanded their own creativity and contributed to that of the Group as a whole.

So I came away with one great buzz as well. A realisation that there is hope for the world when young people like these – and there a lot more of them – are prepared to take on the challenges of the World and do something about them. I also came away with a fierce determination to get even more people involved in World Merit and similar schemes. These people are the future of our World; our Country and our City.

Regrettably, we do not yet have a very active group inside Liverpool except for the partnership we have with Liverpool John Moores University. In the New Year we will be working on that launching a number of projects in schools and in the young community as a whole. This will involve youngsters in doing things in their own community in the City Region. They might then have the possibility of joining a group of young people from all of the World at our change makers conference in Morocco in March.

If you want to know more or know someone who might be interested go onto our website at www.worldmerit.org. Alternatively contact Chris Arnold at ca@worldmerit.org.

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Talk to your MP and demand a People’s Vote

Alisha Lewis and I went to support the campaigners for a People’s Vote at Lime Street today. We all got a bit wet but the reception was great.

Today Alisha Lewis and I went to support those people who are campaigning to get a “Peoples Vote” or, as Vince Cable puts it, a first referendum on the facts! Lime Street was both wet and windy but that did not diminish the enthusiasm with which the gallant band asked people’s opinion on two key questions. People stopped massively wanted to remain in the EU and also massively demanded a People’s vote to settle the matter.

We don’t know what will happen in the ‘meaningless’ vote on Tuesday but we can reasonably assume that the aftermath will be chaotic. All the pundits say that May cannot win the vote and that does seem the most likely outcome. The question then is, “what next?” Who really knows?As I listen to both politicians and pundits alike it is clear that there a bewildering series of opportunities which can be summarised as:

  • Go back and negotiate again – but it is not clear what the negotiating points would be when the EU say that this is their best offer.
  • Exit without an agreement – but surely Parliament would never allow this option which would cripple our economy.
  • Go for a Canada++ deal. But that isn’t on the table
  • Go for a Norway style deal but the Norwegians do not recommend that option
  • Have a vote of ‘No Confidence’ but the DUP will get back to their pro-Tory Partnership and no Tory will break ranks
  • Theresa May could call a General Election but that seems unlikely given her relative lack of success at the last one.
  • Theresa May steps down and the Tories appoint a new Leader and therefore PM after Christmas – but that will not change the maths in the Parliament or the chances of getting anything different past the EU and time is very, very short to do anything.

So, all that leaves is really just one option. If the matter cannot be settled in Parliament it must go back to the people for a vote now that we know the options and the facts have shone through the mists and myths.

The question, to my mind, is very simple:

Given that the Government has negotiated an agreement with the EU do you:

Support the agreement and wish to leave the EU?; or

Reject the agreement and wish to stay in the EU?

Of course, this needs two things to happen:

  1. Parliament must vote for such a People’s Vote; and
  2. Either the EU must agree to delay the implementation for Article 50 (which they have agreed to do informally) or article 50 must be withdrawn (which advisers to the EU have recommended could happen without further recourse to the EU 27)

Which of these options proceeds depends on how the Labour Party would vote. What many people seem to have forgotten in the midst of the splits in the Tory Government is that Labour is split in much the same way. In fact, there is more in common between the line being taken by May and Corbyn than there is with most people in their own Parties.

Just as the Tories promised simple solutions and a quick deal for a relationship with the EU that would keep all the ‘advantages’ and remove all the ‘disadvantages’ so does Corbyn. His mantra of a ‘Brexit for Jobs’ is bogus. There is not a single expert including those in his own Party who believe such a thing is possible. All exits from the EU lead to lower investment; worse trading and fewer jobs.

It is as unclear today as it has been since June 2016 what Labour Policy really is. The Labour Conference in Liverpool earlier this year passed by a very large majority a motion calling for a 2nd referendum. Activists assumed that this would mean that Labour Policy would change as the beloved Leader has always made clear for 40 years that the will of Conference should prevail over the MPs. However, that position seems to have shifted since Corbyn became the Leader!

We all know that in his heart Corbyn views the EU as a capitalist conspiracy which can be replaced by a Federation of Socialist States. We had one of those in East Europe and that didn’t work too well did it!?

So, it is clear that whether or not you wanted or want to Remain or wanted or want to Leave this matter cannot be resolved by Parliament although that is what we should expect in a parliamentary democracy. So, we have nowhere to go but back to the People.

You can help with this. E-mail your MP now their e-mail address is firstname.lastname.mp@parliament.uk. Demand a People’s Vote and then join millions of us who will campaign for a Remain vote which I am confident will be delivered as the clarity has now been given as to just how awful are the real consequences of leaving.

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What Next for Calderstones Park’s ‘Depot site’?

What should the so-called depot site in Calderstones Park be used for? The council are still likely to propose housing but what do you think?

Its now four weeks since the Judicial Review into the planning applications allowed by the Council on Calderstones Park took place at the High Court in Manchester. The local community through LOGS did a marvellous job raising £40,000 for the appeal with tremendous extra work being done by local solicitor Robin Makin. The Council spent £35,000 defending the case but it might all have been a waste of time and money.

As I have already revealed at the last Council meeting Mayor Joe Anderson said that he would make neither the Beechley Riding for Disabled or the Miniature Railway move if they did not want to. Both before Council and after the Mayor’s statement I have talked to the RDA and they have confirmed that they don’t want to move but want a 25-year lease. We have known this for some months and all the expense and anguish of the JR could have been avoided because if the Stables do not move most of the planning application cannot proceed.

However, all the limited intelligence that we are getting back from the Council suggest that they see the way forward as a compromise over what they refer to as the depot site which is clearly ‘brownfield land’. Their compromise may well be, “no development on the 90% but let us build 19 homes on the depot site”. We do not regard this as a depot site. This used to be the site of the world-famous Orchid Collection which was maliciously destroyed in 1983 by the Militant controlled council. Whether Orchid site or depot there can be no argument about whether or not it is part of the Park.

We don’t think that is a compromise! The development of that site would put obtrusive housing right into the park and would necessitate the building of a two-lane road from Harthill Road onto the site.

We believe that the only uses that the site should be used for are uses which restore the link between the site and the wider park. Within that there are a number of activities which could be considered:

  • Education as some sort of ‘Park School’ for infants and junior children
  • Health or social care uses acting as a base for a range of health and social care related uses within the Park
  • An arboretum
  • A horticultural training project
  • New collections in glass houses

There are probably more activities but these are the ones that have occurred to us! We think it important that we have ideas ready to present to the Council whenever and however they decide to react to the Judicial Review.

That’s why we are embarking on a consultation process to ask you what you think about the uses. Are you an individual with a good idea? Are you an organisation that feels it could make good use of the site in the park related methodology suggested? Have you any thoughts about other organisations that we could contact about the opportunities?

We are not, at this stage, looking for a detailed proposal but an outline of an idea and suggestions about a way forward.

Please let me have your ideas at richardkemp68@yahoo.co.uk or http://liverlibdems.org.uk/calderstones

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Together we can, “Save our High Streets”

This one block on Allerton Road contains five locally run, locally owned businesses that have local supply chains and pay their taxes to keep our local and national services going. They deserve your support.

The 1st December was National Small Business Day. To help that day Lib Dems in Liverpool have tweeted about our favourite shops in our areas which are run by local people for local people. We are doing it using the hashtag #LiverpoolLocal.

In my case I was able to get 5 shops in one Tweet because there is a fabulous block on Allerton Road where you can find Clarks the butcher, Adam Apple the fruit and Veg Shop; Shrigley’s for Fish; Voglio for gifts and Rays the Bakers for bread and cakes.  All top shops providing high quality products at reasonable prices.

Every Saturday between now and Christmas we will be letting you know where the shops are that we support on a regular basis and why we support them. We will also be reminding you of the Council’s Farmers Markets which feature produce made locally and in our City region.

We are hoping that you will join in with this campaign and also let us know what your favourite shops are and why. We think everyone should support our shop local campaign for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it keeps our High Streets open and active. Too many people complain about the high streets being deserted and then spend all their money on websites and supermarkets.

Secondly, any profit they make stays within our community. The owners of all our 5 Allerton Road businesses quoted above live in or just outside Liverpool. They pay their taxes here and nationally. In the case of the big companies they take their profit wherever they want and despite hefty turnovers pay very low levels of taxation in the UK never mind Liverpool. Often the money ends up in tax havens like the Caribbean.

Thirdly, they usually support local producers. Rays Bakers are supplied from their own base in Prescot; Adam’s Apples buys from City Region Farmers wherever possible. Voglio buys much of its sales products locally supporting young artists and designers.

Fourthly, they treat people properly. There are too many stories circulating from the big companies about zero-hour contracts; poor working conditions; unhealthy work practices and worker exploitation for decent people to stand aside and consent to these practices by buying from the firms that use them. Far too many people complain about the ill treatment of staff and zero hour contracts and then happily use the services of the exploiting companies. Be under no illusion. If everyone stopped buying from these places until they changed their bad practices the company’s concerned would change their behaviour.

All these reasons mean that you should, wherever possible use local shops owned by local people. One or two people doing this won’t make much difference. One or two thousand will start to make an impression. One or two million would make a huge difference and improve our local economies; improve working practices for staff and create a tax base in which international greed cannot prevail.

Join our campaign. Tell us on social media which are you favourite shops or eating places. Join our campaign for a stronger local economy. When you’ve done that use the #LiverpoolLocal to tell us.

You can find out more on our Twitter Feed https://twitter.com/LiverLibDems

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Lib Dems urge Council; Police; HMRC and DWP investigation in to allegations of misuse of car parking takings in North Liverpool

This is where decisions are supposed to take place but the council are now investigating allegations of improper decisions taken elsewhere

My colleague Cllr Mirna Juarez, our Regeneration Spokesperson, has today asked for a full investigation  into allegations that are swirling around North Liverpool about the misuse of car parking takings in concessions given to community Groups by Liverpool Council.  Given the nature of the allegations Cllr Juarez has asked the Council’s Chief Executive to also involve the Police; DWP and HMRC.

Cllr Mirna Juarez said, “Former Labour Minister and MP, Peter Kilfoyle, has revealed the existence of a report by Barry Kushner into allegations about this misuse. The report has been shared with parts of the media. These allegations have been in existence for some time and are the principal reasons that former Labour Leader, Frank Prendergast sits as an Independent Cllr and Cllr Kay Davies moved from Labour to the Lib Dems.

We know that the report has been leaked to sections of the media and is being used as evidence against two long-serving councillors to discredit them in advance of internal elections next year which will involve the Labour Party taking decisions about whether or not there should be a mayoralty and if so who their candidate should be.

It is now clear that the reports being compiled are not to get at the truth but are being used as part of the vicious infighting inside the Labour Party. That is simply not good enough. The reputation of senior Labour Cllrs; all councillors and the council itself are all being put at risk. That is why I have today asked the Chief Executive to investigate these allegations. Because they also allege fraud and cash in hand payments I have suggested that DWP; HMRC and the Police should be part of this investigation”.

Peter Kilfoyle makes several points in his blog which I quote here:

“Of course, Liverpool City Council is notorious for its lack of transparency, so we must wait and see if this report is published – unexpurgated, and complete with its recommendations. I suspect it is for the eyes of the Labour group only. The report also throws a light on the sometimes dubious nature of CICs and their stewardship. After all, it is public money which is at the heart of their operation. How effectively are these bodies monitored? How responsibly are they audited? How, at their outset, does a council – any council –ensure due diligence of these CICs and the people who run them?

There still remains the second report on the Priory Road site which is in the hands of Mayor Anderson. Whether he has done anything on this is highly unlikely.There is sometimes method in his madness. For three years or more, this site was run by a private company very closely associated with the mayor. There is,therefore, an immediate conflict of interest for him. During the period in which that company were custodians of the site, there were no receipts to cover its usage. It was a straightforward cash business, and there were no audited accounts. Staff on the site were paid cash in hand (as was the case on the other two car parks) against all council procedures. Once again, the notional income raised – never evidenced in any way to date – bore no relation to the capacity of the site and the parking fees charged”

As ever I ask what do you think about this and have you any further information to shed light on what are apparently murky affairs in North Liverpool?

The full letter to the Chief Executive is attached below. He has now confirmed that a full investigation is taking place into the allegations led by the Council’s internal audit department.

Liverpool Liberal Democrats,

509, Smithdown Road,

Liverpool L15 5AE

Tony Reeves,

Chief Executive,

Liverpool City Council

By- E-mail

27th November 2018

Dear Chief Executive,

Re:       Allegations of Fraud in North Liverpool

I am writing further to the recent e-mail to you from Cllr Kemp to ask you to conduct a full investigation into the activities of organisations in North Liverpool whereby the Council has granted organisations authority to arrange match day parking on 3 locations. In return for them providing this service they keep the fees earned which they are allowed to use for the purposes of their organisation.

We have no problem with this in principle but it would appear that this is not being properly undertaken in practice. The concerns have been mounting for some time and are a major reason for Cllr Prendergast leaving Labour to sit as an Independent and Cllr Davies to leave Labour and join the Lib Dems.

The allegations are:

  • That Labour politicians have been personally benefiting from such payments.
  • That staff employed have been paid cash in hand thus flouting potential tax liability and possibly committing benefits fraud
  • That the organisations are not properly accounting for the cash or properly applying the money for the legitimate use of their organisations.

I want to make clear that I have no personal knowledge of these matters and am not myself making allegations. However, members of the Labour Party tell me:

  • That there is truth in these rumours; and
  • That the Mayor has asked Cllr Barry Kushner to conduct an inquiry into two of these matters and report to him on them and that the Mayor is conducting his own inquiry into a third organisation.  We understand that the media have now been provided with some of this information because it is being used not to deal with issues affecting the Council but to resolve internal conflicts within the Labour Party.

This is just not good enough. Where the use of the Council’s assets is concerned there must be total transparency and accountability. Where the allegations relate to councillors, the council must act to preserve the standards and reputations of all councillors and itself.

On that basis, I am asking you to conduct a full review of this matter on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Group. In our view, because of the nature of the allegations,the review should also include staff of the Police; DWP and HMRC.

Please do not hesitate to contact me about this. We will certainly make contact with you if further information comes our way.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Mirna Juarez,

Lib Dem Spokesperson,

Regeneration Select Committee

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Will St John’s Market close to make way for T J Hughes?

St Johns Market_Moment

I visited St John’s Market today after receiving information that we have lost £800,000 on it in 2 years and are looking at handing it over to other organisations one of which is rumoured to be T J Hughes

In responses to a series of questions from me the City Council it has been revealed that the St John’s Market has lost more than £800,000 since it opened just over 2 years ago; is continuing to make a loss and has only half the number of people visiting it than before it was refurbished. In addition, the Council are negotiating for two organisations to take over the Market and use it for a different purpose than that of the current market function.

The refurbishment of St John’s Market has clearly seen one blunder after another. After spending £2.5 million of borrowed money on the redevelopment and losing almost £1,000,000 they now have half the number of people using the market than there were before the refurbishment. The situation is now so bad that they are negotiating with two organisations to take over this loss-making venture neither of whom will want to keep it in the same format that we have known for more than a century.

Liverpool Council has been the markets authority for the City for more than 800 years. You would think that over that time they would have learned how to work with stall holders and market users to provide a facility that people want to use.

Clearly the market is facing huge pressure as is every other retail site from on line marketing and the growth of cheap stores like Poundland. But in other Countries and other cities where there are the same pressures the Councils are coping better.

There are strong suggestions that one of the organisations wishing to move into the market is T J Hughes. This would have huge implications for the future of London Road as well as for the future of the traders eking out a living in the market.

To spend £2.5 million on a refurbishment with no consultation and no clear idea of what the market was for is an act of gross incompetence.

The council must safeguard and stand by the market tenants who have stood by the Council and ensure that there is somewhere that they can carry on trading. They need to launch a consultation programme with the people of the City to see what they want this key city centre location used for”.

The full set of questions and answers are attached below:

Since St John’s Market was reopened in November 2016:

  1.   How much rent has been paid by tenants?

Response: The total amount paid by tenants from November 2016 is £299,744.24 

  1.   Are ‘full rents’ currently being charged and if not when will they be charged?

Response: No, negotiations are underway with a number of parties regarding the future of the market.  The market traders will be a key consultee in any future changes to the market and as part of these discussions the Council will decide when to re-start charging rent.

  1.   How much has been spent on running the market since it reopened?

Response: St John’s Market is located within a space that Liverpool City Council has on a long term lease from Infrared, the current owners of St John’s precinct.  The space is shared with a trading events company (WIGIG), a combined Council one-stop shop and job centre and other space which is used by the Council for ad hoc events.  As such, as well as the direct attributable market costs (staffing, admin etc) there are a range of shared costs related to the management of the wider space.  Once these costs are included on an estimated pro-rata basis, the total costs for running of the market since it reopened are £1.03m.

  1.   How much has been spent on marketing the market since it reopened?

Response: Direct expenditure of £51,485.61 has been spent on PR and Advertising through the Markets Company.  There has been other media coverage through the Council’s media department and through the provision of a Christmas grotto and other events (Scouse of Horrors) but these do not have a direct, attributable financial value; we estimate this investment to have a value of circa a further £100,000.  This does not include any monies that the market traders may have spent advertising their own business which will also have promoted the markets.

  1.   How much has been spent on improving and decorating the market since it reopened?

Response: A number of cosmetic changes (enhanced signage etc) have been undertaken throughout the market.  In general, these changes have been included in other pieces of budgetary expenditure and other contracts for work including the PR and Advertising budget.  Total spend is circa £41,908.

  1.   How much has been spent on interest and capital repayments since it reopened?

Response: Since the market opened, £63,700 has been spent on interest and capital repayments on the initial investments made.

  1.   What footfall measurements have been taken and how do they compare with the footfall prior to the market closing for refurbishment?

Response: Current footfall falls between 5000 and 6000 people per week based upon available data.  In 2014/15 footfall was circa 10,000-10,500 per week.  We believe there are a number of contributory factors to this decline and note that the footfall decline had started prior to the Council refurbishment (footfall declined by circa 1000 people per week between 2014 and 2015).  Specifically, the overall decline in the national retail market as well as increased high street competition from shops such as Primark, Aldi etc who serve as competition for traditional market traders.  Nationally, footfall was down across the UK by 3.3% in April 2018 compared to April 2017 and this reflects a long-term high-street trend which is affecting every element of the high street market.

  1.   Is the Council talking to any individual or company about the future of the Market outside the control of the Council?

Response: The Council are currently in conversation with two external organisations regarding the future of the market.  No decision has been reached on either discussion and the detail of these discussions are therefore commercially confidential.

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