Monday 9 December 2019

A licence for slavery - Hackney's new terms for market traders

Hackney is presently consulting Ridley Road and its other street market traders on new licensing conditions. They run to 33 pages with 280 conditions.  If traders slip up on the licensing conditions they can be fined and their licence to trade can be varied, suspended or revoked and lead to a loss of their livelihood. Breach of conditions can also be criminal offences with the risk of prosecution. Fees for licensing and Council storage are also increasing, some by 12%-20%, and their container storage charges will double. The traders right to object has been extended until 31 December 2019.

Hackney have employed new staff  to manage Ridley Road market. The chief enforcer is a former police officer who was reported to have been dismissed from the Met Police for misconduct . The Police have confirmed that he was dismissed without notice following a gross misconduct hearing at which the allegations were found proven. the new chief manager, formerly of Havering Council,  has had a career in both public and private  markets. He says the Council will "tighten up on enforcement forwarned". In their enthusiasm, some enforcement actions under the new conditions  seem to have already begun even before the consultation period has ended and the new conditions adopted.

Many of Hackney's licensed traders are up before dawn to get their stock from the wholesale markets between 3am and 6am. Hackney's new conditions require them to have set up their stalls by 8.30am ( or lose their pitch), sign in a the office by 9.30am ( or be sent home), be personally present for 51% of the day, sign out by 6pm and clear their stuff from the street by 7pm. That's a 16 hour day/six day week, Monday to Saturday,  or face losing your licence. Plus no holidays exceeding 2 weeks without Hackney's permission. The new conditions are a licence for slavery. And the new licence fees and storage charges could be the final nail in the coffin for many traders.

As one trader said "There are 101 ways to lose your licence". In fact there are 280 conditions and sub-conditions which go into the minutest detail and all must be complied with to the letter or the trader will face enforcement action. The new Council conditions will pull the rug from under traders' feet by creating insecurity, stress and expose them to bullying and victimisation.

Hackney has been working with developers of private buildings along Ridley Road. Larochette claims that construction access for their Shopping Village redevelopment will require closure of 28 market traders pitches. The new licensing conditions include the requirement for traders to move their pitch, and change the design of stalls and awnings, if it is considered to be in the interest of "redevelopment of a particular area".  These new conditions seem designed to assist the gentrification of Ridley Road even though the market provides essential affordable fresh food and goods for our community in this age of austerity.

The Council has a history of over-regulating and bullying Ridley Road's street market traders despite them being the life blood at the heart of Dalston. You can read some of the background here and here and here. Our market is  where people of all races and backgrounds are united in a common purpose. This diversity is something that makes Ridley Road - and Dalston - unique, vibrant, attractive and sustainable. Long may it continue.


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