Monmouth and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce

South Wales Argus. 9th September 2018

Monmouthshire County Council drops street furniture charges

TRADERS in Monmouthshire will no longer have to pay for displays outside their premises after a controversial policy was finally scrapped by the local authority.

Thousands of residents and members of the business community signed petitions against the annual charge for street furniture on the high street. There was also an effective lobbying campaign by Monmouth Chamebr of Commerce

Monmouthshire County Council aimed to restrict “obstructions” on the public highway and increase public safety, with annual charges for A-boards and street furniture recouped to cover the implementation costs.

But the council’s cabinet met on Wednesday to finalise the end of a policy which has proved controversial since it was first introduced in 2016.

The only surviving part of the policy will be a permit scheme, and the only charge being a fine for those who fail to comply with the scheme.

Conservative councillor Jane Pratt told cabinet members that there had been a “huge reaction” to the policy.

“There was a very well-publicised social media campaign. I received a petition signed by 2,700 people from Abergavenny, and 3,000 in Monmouth,” she said.

Cllr Fox’s deputy, Councillor Bob Greenland, added: “This was not some form of money-making scheme.

“We were simply seeking to reimburse the council with those costs, otherwise they have to be found from elsewhere.”

Chamber seeks solutions to street furniture issue charges prior to 13th July meeting at the Shire Hall.

David Cummings, Chairman of Monmouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce commented:

Following expert advice from a commercial insurance agent, we are currently seeking ways with MCC to reduce the public liability requirement for A boards and street furniture from £5 million down to £2 million and so reduce costs for retailers. On 12th July our county councillor on the Strong Communities Select Committee will ensure that all present are aware of the issues and the efforts of the Chamber to find solutions, including the suggestion we made back in January 2018 that all retailers within the Small Business Rate Relief band should be exempt from charges on street furniture and displays. We have the support of other business organisations in the county for this proposal.

Despite several attempts by email and phone, we have not yet been able to reach the county councillor with responsibility for Highways and engage with him in finding solutions to the justifiable concerns of our retailers. It is important to stress here that it was Cabinet members, not officers, who signed off the new charging regime at their meeting on 10th January 2018. The current deputy leader of MCC made a press statement promising substantial funds to retailers affected by 2016 business premises rate revaluation if the Conservatives were returned to power in May 2017. This money has not been yet forthcoming and could be made available to resolve these issues. Some retailers have been confused by the MCC press release of 6th July 2018 entitled “Council to provide funding to support county’s high street businesses”. This is money from the Welsh Government for the High Street Rate Relief Scheme that the Chamber also fought hard to secure and does not come out of the MCC budget"

9th July 2018.

Statement on MCC Street Furniture Policy

Monmouthshire Council Leader Peter Fox and Chief Executive Paul Matthews made the following statement on the County Council’s Facebook page today following concerns expressed by local businesses on social media:

“We’ve read the Facebook messages and the points made are fair. Traders in this County are serious sensible people and they play a massive role in the success of our Towns – without them we are lost. The policy around A Boards, Street furniture was agreed back in July 2016 after many months of deliberation. It was agreed well before anybody became aware of the madness being introduced to the rural trading community by the latest business rate revaluation exercise – an issue that we have been working hard on with local Chambers of Trade for months to lobby for change. It is NOT our goal to make life hard for traders and as such we are minded to ask Council to re-consider their approach in light of changed circumstances and in the meantime set aside aa policy that may be seen to frustrate trade. In doing so there are a couple of points to highlight.

1. It is doubtful that traders insurance does cover them for accidents caused by A Boards / street furniture. We would encourage them to check this. These accidents don’t happen very often but we live in a ‘claim mad world’ so please check your cover.

2. We want to have sensible conversations about the positioning of street furniture to ensure that pushchairs / wheelchairs can move easily around our towns without having to go onto the road. We know traders will want to help us with this.

3. Our time is better spent in continuing to work together on events / attractions that draw people to Monmouthshire rather than falling out with each other.

The money side is not material to the Council so there will be no charges to traders anywhere in Monmouthshire for the time being."

Chamber press statement on the charging for A boards issue


"I understand that several traders have expressed concern this last week about the new regime currently being imposed by MCC for A boards and tables and chairs and displays on the public highway.  At a time when higher business rates threaten for 2017/18 onwards the Chamber is sympathetic to some traders concerns about another cost to their business. However, it is important for those affected to understand the process that has been followed.

Since the charges were first proposed back in February 2014 we have worked closely with the county council to achieve a compromise solution that is fair to traders, the disabled and the county council themselves. There have been numerous meetings and countless press statements and letters on the matter.

Initially, we opposed the proposed charges and wrote to MCC Cabinet in December 2015 and secured a delay in which more consultation took place. On the issue of A boards, we secured a one-off charge of £50 rather than a registration fee and annual charge. Assuming an A board has a five-year life then the cost imposed by MCC is 20p per week. Also, a compromise on the proposed construction of A boards was reached in that A boards must now just have a stay to keep them rigid rather than solid opening sides.  We were also able to gain agreement for a licence fee arrangement for those exhibiting A boards on the main pubic highway a distance from their business premises. This benefits retailers in Beaufort and Swan courts and the Oldway Centre,  who otherwise would have had no presence on Agincourt Square, Church Street or Monnow street respectively.

Two weeks ago, I walked around Monmouth with the officer in charge and explained to them any special circumstances or arrangements that should be considered on the siting of A boards. Every business with A boards, tables and chairs and street displays on the public highway should have been aware that the new regime was coming in shortly due to a considerable number of press statements issued by the Chamber. We were of course disappointed in negotiations with MCC not to be able to secure, in the Cabinet decision in July 2016, reductions in the cost of street displays and tables and chairs."

David Cummings

Chairman of Monmouth and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce.