Wiltshire Council try to get paid twice for a Saturday there was no Marlborough market
Marlborough market stall-holders are in dispute over demands by Wiltshire Council that they should pay for their pitches on a day when the market had to be abandoned due to weather conditions - and cars were then allowed to park in the High Street on their pitches and were paying parking charges.
That would mean the Council were getting paid twice for use of 'their' High Street - once by the stall-holders and again by the owners of the parked cars.
It does seem that Council officials have been told to maximise every penny of income. Last year's spat over Wiltshire Council's possible demand for a payment of nearly £1,000 for the parking spaces occupied by the Marlborough and District Rotary Club's Christmas tree was settled quickly and peaceably.
The current dispute over Wiltshire Council's demand for payment threatens to go on much longer.
Wednesday, December 30 saw winds of 70MPH and stall-holders decided their stalls would simply be blown away - proving a danger to the public and incurring losses for the stallholders. Traders are refusing to pay their pitch fees for that day.
There is first hand evidence that the yellow bollards that announce the next day's market were not in place at 9.00AM on the Wednesday - and with cars parked on the market site, it looked as though the market had been cancelled. The Council has evidence the bollards were put out as usual on the Tuesday evening.
The traders have heard from Council leader, Baroness Scott, who says lost market days are up to traders: "The Council's Market Regulations put the onus on the trader to decide whether they can set up in a safe manner. Any decision to trade or not for whatever reason is with the trader...this is a hazard of being an outdoor trader."
And the traders have had to sign "to be bound" by these regulations. So legally the Council's case is watertight.
Quite why the Council's parking attendants and market staff let motorists park and pay in the spaces usually occupied by the market traders who were being charged for them, is a mystery.
The other mystery is how Wiltshire Council as 'owner' of the pitches it then rents out, comes to have a proper risk assessment that allows third parties to decide whether or not to risk setting up stalls in high winds and possibly endangering the public.
The Council will be reviewing their regulations in the near future. In the meantime they say the fees for that day are due. And traders say they will not be paying.