A councillor says she was “disappointed” not to be able to clarify the situation around the cancellation of a farmers’ market in Burntwood at a town council meeting.

The first of a series of events was due to take place on Sunday (11th July) – but was cancelled just days beforehand.

Cllr Sue Woodward, leader of Burntwood Town Council, had planned to issue a statement over the issue at a meeting of Burntwood Town Council last night (14th July).

Cllr Sue Woodward

But opposition group leader Cllr Robin Place blocked it as it had not been an agenda item – an issue which had seen him prevented from posing an unplanned question in a previous council meeting.

Cllr Woodward said:

“Technically, Cllr Place was right and, yes, it can’t be one rule for some and another for others, but I was disappointed that my statement was blocked as I felt sure local residents wanted to know the facts behind the cancellation. 

“A number of members and officers at both the town council and Lichfield District Council have worked hard on this over this past week – firstly, to try to ensure the market went ahead in spite of the glitches that had emerged late in the day, and secondly, we also wanted to know, rather than guess, what actually went wrong.

“It was about learning lessons and improving partnership working for the future rather than apportioning any blame.”

Cllr Sue Woodward, Burntwood Town Council

The two councils had been criticised by the organiser of the event in a war of words over who had been to blame for the market failing to go ahead.

Cllr Woodward said there was still a commitment to ensure the event did take place going forward.

“Above all, it must be remembered that this was a pilot scheme, testing the systems on all sides.

“The commitment to deliver the Burntwood Producers’ Market as soon as possible is still strong at both Burntwood Town Council and Lichfield District Council.

“I want to put on record my thanks to Cllr Doug Pullen and Cllr Iain Eadie, ;eader and deputy leader of Lichfield District Council for proposing this partnership project and for allocating funding for it.

“It was a breath of fresh air after many years of our town being ignored by the previous district council leadership.”

Cllr Sue Woodward, Burntwood Town Council

Cllr Sue Woodward has released her proposed statement to Lichfield Live:

I am grateful for the opportunity to put factual information in the public domain. The Scrutiny Committee may decide whether further scrutiny is required, as may Lichfield District Council but, in my view, this should be about improving partnership working for the future rather than apportioning any blame.  

It also allows me to put on record my disappointment that the event did not go ahead last Sunday, as we’d all hoped, and to acknowledge the disappointment of stallholders and residents alike. However, disappointment is not an excuse for the rudeness shown by some members of the public about the town council, the district council and about councillors.

None of us enter local politics to annoy our electors – quite the reverse – but to be called dishonest, recipients of ‘backhanders’ etc without all of the facts is unacceptable.

Cllr Doug Pullen, in particular, worked very hard on Thursday to retrieve the situation, not of his own making, and I am grateful to him and Cllr Iain Eadie for their ongoing commitment to a markets pilot scheme. 

In summary, our Town Clerk had been actively engaging with Lichfield District Council (LDC) officers since late April. During these conversations he had on several occasions asked for the appropriate application forms to be sent to him. The issue of the Traders’ Licences (including the need for the traders to provide evidence of their Public Liability Insurance – PLI) was only highlighted on 7th July.

The key emails were as follows: 

* 2.6.21 – Email to Cllr Iain Eadie from the Town Clerk confirming that BTC would like to take up the offer of funding and requesting that the application forms be sent to him.

* 22.6.21 – Email to the Town Clerk from Partnerships, Community Safety & Licensing Officer (LDC) confirming street trader licence fee for community events and that the link to the application would be sent to him. This was never received.

* 22.6.21 – Email from Town Clerk to Visitor Economy Manager (LDC) submitting BTC’s application for community event funding.

* 23.6.21 – Email from Town Clerk to Partnerships, Community Safety & Licensing Officer requesting advice on what applications BTC needed to make.

* 8.7.21 – Email from Partnerships, Community Safety & Licensing Officer asking us to provide copies of the Traders’ Public Liability Insurance (PLI). This was the first time that the Town Clerk had been made aware that this information was needed for the Street Trading Licence. 

Concurrently, the Town Clerk was in touch with CJ Events. They were unwilling to pass on Traders’ PLI information due to GDPR. Although the clerk provided information on GDPR exemptions which would allow this, they said that they remained unwilling to provide the required information and, moreover, did not have the capacity to retrieve this information in time for the licensing process to proceed.

Cllr Doug Pullen and I were informed of this specific issue on 8.7.21 and proceeded to discuss contingency arrangements to try to ensure the market still went ahead on 11.7.21. These back-up plans were all in place by late afternoon/early evening on 8.7.21 to be implemented early on 9.7.21

At 16.22 on 8.7.21, CJ Events informed the Town Clerk that they were unable to proceed and said ‘Therefore, we are in a position where regrettably this Sunday’s Market will have to be cancelled due to no licencing. Do you want to write a comment which can be issued to traders? Or you happy for us to do this?”

The Town Clerk replied at 16.47 and said ‘That is disappointing but understandable. I am just waiting for guidance from my leadership team on how we broadcast the news that the market is not being held. I will get back to you as soon as I can. In the meanwhile please treat this matter as confidential‘.

CJ Events informed their Traders at 16.30 that the market was cancelled. This subsequently was posted on Facebook and so became public in the late afternoon/early evening of 8.7.21 which meant that the contingency plans put in place by Cllr Pullen for early on 9.7.21 were no longer viable and we agreed that, in these circumstances (ie with fewer stalls with stallholders potentially by now making alternative arrangements), it should be cancelled.

It must be remembered that this was a pilot scheme. As such, it was testing the opportunity to set up a local producers’ market in a partnership between BTC and LDC. Both councils have been reviewing the issues which arose which made it, unfortunately, non-viable this time. However, lessons have been learnt and both councils remain committed to deliver this project as soon as possible.

Cllr Sue Woodward’s proposed statement to Burntwood Town Council

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3 Comments

  1. I must say that from speaking to traders and locals they were looking forward to this activity taking place.

    As an event business based in Lichfield and operating around the UK, our application form and our online GDPR policy, informs traders that we require their permission to work with departments within councils and send relevant information when requested ie licensing, EHO depts.

    By having this upfront allows all of the relevant sense checks to take place correctly and no fraudulent traders can trade.

    Personally I feel this could possibly have been handled better by the company concerned as livelihoods missed a trading opportunity but I truly hope that all parties can sort this out.

    If Burntwood Town Council would like to get in touch with the team we will gladly assist any way we can to bring this market to life and also have several ideas for 2020 including an open air concert on Chasewater!

  2. It seems to me that in local politics working together is often essential and in Burntwood’s case it is critical to help the town after we have emerged from lockdown in whatever way we can.

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