Editorial comment - SDC needs to reconsider farmers' market tender

WHY now? That is the question which has baffled stallholders, shopkeepers and local politicians.

After 14 years and seemingly out of the blue, Stroud District Council has unilaterally decided, without any consultation, that it is going to put the contract to run the town’s award winning farmers’ market out to tender.

Since 1999 the market, which was recognised as the best in the country this year, has been operated by Gerb Gerbrands.

Anyone who knows Gerb will be well aware that he has single-handedly built the market up from scratch, transforming it into the unrivalled success it is today.

He has put his heart and soul into the project yet despite years of hard graft and toil, for some reason, SDC thinks it has the right to invite bidders to take it over, in what can only be described as a Soviet-style seizure of private enterprise.

Of course, Government cuts are putting the authority under immense financial strain but raising revenue by flogging the farmers’ market is not the answer.

Here’s why. Picture this scenario, SDC puts the market out to tender and the winning bidder is a massive company or mega-corporation.

There is no requirement in the contract for the new operator to retain the existing stallholders so to save money and maximise profit, they bus in their own.

The quality of the market rapidly declines and people stop coming into Stroud every Saturday, decimating the town centre and its businesses, which pay taxes to SDC.

Can the authority really be so short-sighted as not to see the potential consequences of its actions?

The market is the jewel in Stroud’s crown and is vital to the town’s singular character and sense of community. It must be saved. SDC, please withdraw the tender.

Comments (1)

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5:09pm Wed 11 Dec 13

jim aplin says...

Excellent, well-researched and well-thought through opinion. I'm a long-serving stallholder at Stroud Farmers Market since 2000, and have recently studied the Council's Invitation to Bid (ITT) in depth and repeatedly.
The specifications of the tender are limited to operational details (put stalls up, take them down, ensure that laws are obeyed, keep it tidy etc), paperwork, types of trader. The work to promote the market, build community links, create a vibrant social event, support small local producers and more (work that Gerb has done for years) is not in the specifications.
What is emphatically in the ITT is the right for a new operator to select and manage stallholders, and raise revenues as they choose. So they can fund a high bid by budgeting to raise stallholders charges significantly.
The criteria for evaluating the bids are 50% financial, 50% standard of bid. Under the standard of bid scoring a bidder can get 40% by meeting all the specifications, which do not include a large body of work that drives the success of the market.
Despite protestations from SDC, this is not value for money. It's an invitation to bid high but make someone else pay for it, cut the work done to build the market but still score high for standard; then pocket the money. Is this value for Stroud?
Excellent, well-researched and well-thought through opinion. I'm a long-serving stallholder at Stroud Farmers Market since 2000, and have recently studied the Council's Invitation to Bid (ITT) in depth and repeatedly. The specifications of the tender are limited to operational details (put stalls up, take them down, ensure that laws are obeyed, keep it tidy etc), paperwork, types of trader. The work to promote the market, build community links, create a vibrant social event, support small local producers and more (work that Gerb has done for years) is not in the specifications. What is emphatically in the ITT is the right for a new operator to select and manage stallholders, and raise revenues as they choose. So they can fund a high bid by budgeting to raise stallholders charges significantly. The criteria for evaluating the bids are 50% financial, 50% standard of bid. Under the standard of bid scoring a bidder can get 40% by meeting all the specifications, which do not include a large body of work that drives the success of the market. Despite protestations from SDC, this is not value for money. It's an invitation to bid high but make someone else pay for it, cut the work done to build the market but still score high for standard; then pocket the money. Is this value for Stroud? jim aplin

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