As you will know, I have started a campaign calling on the council to save Romford Market.
This campaign is on the back of a budget 'saving' proposed by the joint HRA / Labour coalition administration. They have identified that the market looses the council money and targeted the Sunday market for closure, as the largest cost.
I'm concerned because, whilst the plan is only to cut the Sunday market, I fear that this is just the start.
The market has been underinvested into for decades, under political parties of all colours and there is no sign that this is going to change. The opening of the Sunday market was a an indication that the council was willing to try new things, but it's only been around for 3 years and we're only just out of Covid.
I don't think that the Sunday market has been properly thought through or given a chance.
Ultimately, I think we're seeing the beginning of the end for Romford market. If it has to turn a profit for the council to consider keeping it, then they're going to be less and less inclined to keep it going.
During our debate in the council, the administration pointed to the charter as evidence that they are committed. That only ensures we have a market, not that it's invested into or encouraged to thrive.
Council spending cuts mean Romford will lose our Sunday market, lose our free Sunday parking and see £3 per hour parking. All the while, Hornchurch and Upminster will get 30 minutes free parking at a cost of £1m a year to Havering.
With politicians, there's always money for the projects that matter most to them.
With all the above in mind, I tabled a motion to council on setting up a cross-party working group to ensure the survival of our market. We lost the vote, with the HRA/Labour administration making some strange changes.
Our motion read as follows;
This Chamber recognises the important role that Romford's historic market plays in the town's identity and it's economy. We commit to ensuring the survival of Romford Market, and will establish to a cross party working group on devising a plan to protect and enhance the market.
The amendment by the HRA and Labour group said;
This Council recognises the important role that Romford and its historic market plays in Havering. We commit to ensuring that the future of Romford Market is fully considered as part of the public consultation on the Romford Masterplan early next year, and encourage cross party participation in that process.
It all seems very similar, but let's look at the important and strange changes
1) They remove reference to the market being a part of Romford's identity. Why? Is is not or do they want to change that?
2) They won't commit to the market's survival, only to 'considering the future of it.'
3) They don't want a cross-party group, they only want us to reply to a public consultation.
I liken this to being in a relationship with someone who only commits to thinking about staying together, not to actually doing it.
Romford deserves better.
Our market is vital to our town's identity and we need that firm commitment to it's future.
It's all very well HRA councillor standing up and saying they love the market, or to waxing lyrical about it's history, or even to saying they want it to survive. But, when it came to the vote, they wouldn't put their vote where their mouth was and they refused to commit to the survival of Romford market.
As a councillor for the town centre, I don't take this issue lightly. I have even had conversations with companies that run markets, who want to run ours to make it profitable. I've passed these onto the relevant people at the council, including the HRA cabinet member, and they've heard nothing back.
I am not convinced that this administration can be trusted with the future of our market.
You can watch my speech below (transcript to follow shortly).
I took a bit of the wrong tone here. I was frustrated and angry at the ridiculous amendment. But, I stand by what I said. I also had a bit of a flu-brain, so muddled my words a little.