I’m going to do two blog posts about today’s full council meeting as there were two important issues I want to mention. The first is a motion from Cllr Jim Campbell, and Cllr Elise Benjamin about the findings of the Covered Market Scrutiny Review. The motion was fully supported by Cllr Mary Clarkson, a member of the Labour administration of the Council. Jim, Elise and Mary have all spent many hours working on a big review of the Covered Market, working with The Retail Group who have produced an excellent and comprehensive report.
Jim’s motion read:
noting that the latest edition of Your Oxford has a full page advertising “Oxford’s Amazing Christmas Markets”, which highlights new arrangements at Gloucester Green but makes no mention whatsoever of the Covered Market;
noting further no provision has been made during the Three Day Winter Light Festival to include the Covered Market in its programme;
regretting the lack of trust that has developed between the Council, as Landlord, and the Traders, as tenants;
welcoming the excellent report of the Retail Group, its analysis of the reasons behind the current under-performance of the Covered Market, and its proposals for how it can once again be a key part of Oxford’s Retail Offer;
hoping that the residents of Oxford will respond, in numbers and in depth, to the four week public consultation on the report;
supporting the Council’s already stated intention to appoint an interim Market Manager,
therefore calls on The City Executive Board:
• to recognise that, in recent years, there has been a lack of effective management by the Council and that this has been a significant contributory factor to the poor performance of the market;
• to consider thoroughly the findings of the Public Consultation on the future of the market;
• to ensure that the Covered Market has a key role in future City Centre events;
• to respond positively to the short term proposals put forward by the Retail Group;
• to examine in detail the long term proposals made by the Retail Group, and to draw up, by November 2014, a full report of how it will respond to these proposals.”
I was highly dismayed to see and hear Bob Price, the Labour Leader of the Council propose what can only be called a wrecking amendment to the motion that completely removes any suggestion that the council might have done anything wrong or been at all remiss in how it manages the market Colin Cook, Executive councillor with responsibility for the Covered Market also entirely supported the amendment despite objection to it from fellow Labour Councillor Mary Clarkson who has a huge amount of experience of the Covered Market and has spent many hours as part of the scrutiny review of it. Colin Cook said he must be a Market Supporter and must be right because he had recently bought some cheese there. I was quite disgusted that the whole of the rest of the Labour Group, even my Carfax ward colleague Cllr Canning, supported the Labour amendment that essentially takes all the blame off Labour and puts it all on the traders. This is absolutely not the way the political group leading a local authority should behave. I am quite ashamed. This is not the first time I have commented about Labour neglect and arrogance towards the Jewel in Oxford’s Crown that is the Covered Market either.
See my previous posts about Labour Contempt (Oct 12) and Neglect (Sep 11) of the Covered Market.
You can see the briefing note for the meeting, that includes the motions at http://mycouncil.oxford.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=3120