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Business plan for Charter Market/St Albans BID audit/Marlborough Pavilion update

Publication date:

A business plan outlining the future of St Albans Charter Market is due to be analysed at a meeting next month.

The historic market, which was granted its Royal Charter in 1553, is run by St Albans City and District Council.

Members of the Council’s Audit Committee, which monitors the Council’s financial procedures and risk monitoring, have asked to see a business plan for its future development.

The request has been made to the Head of Community Services who has been asked to provide the plan for the Audit Committee’s next meeting on Wednesday 1 September.

If it cannot be made available in time, a special meeting of the Committee may be called to discuss the plan later that month.

To allow the market to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, traders brought their own gazebos. They put them up and dismantle the structures themselves to reduce the risk of contamination.

Councillor Roger Butterworth, the Audit Committee’s Chair, said:

We are very keen to review a business plan, even if it is just in draft or interim form. It will set out historical financial information for the past six years and cover options for use of either gazebos, as used during the pandemic, or stalls for the future. 

This is intended to fill the gap identified by the Council’s internal audit team that there is to date no overarching strategy or policy regarding the Charter Market.

As a Committee, we have been asking for this for some considerable time and we are concerned at how the market could operate in the future without one.

We will be looking for one to be produced for our next meeting or for another meeting later in the month as this is an urgent issue with COVID restrictions now being lifted.

It is within the remit of the Audit Committee to ensure proper planning, resource provision and financial monitoring that are needed for such an esteemed local asset for the benefit of residents and traders, and of good governance, alike.

We’ll also be examining the business plan against internal audit reports for the market from previous years although we recognise that it is a service to the community and may not necessarily make a profit.

St Albans BID

An internal audit report on St Albans BID (Business Improvement District) is to be provided to the next meeting of the Committee.

The request was made as the Council is one of the biggest financial contributors to the independent organisation.

Its current five-year term is to end next April, with a ballot due early next year among levy payers to determine if it is to continue for another term.

St Albans BID is intended to promote the City, act as a voice for its businesses and provide additional services.

Cllr Butterworth said:

We will be looking to receive the report to ensure the BID provides us with an assurance of good financial and general governance in respect of the Council’s involvement, prior to any decision on its continuance.

Marlborough Pavilion

Plans to create a new community hub in the Sopwell area of St Albans will cost around 30% more than the original budget, the Audit Committee heard.

Members were told the budget for the Marlborough Pavilion scheme will now only cover the creation and equipment of a new building. A contractor has been appointed for this work.

Additional budget will be sought for the completion of the planned external works including improvements to a BMX track.

Councillor Butterworth said:

This new two-stage approach to completing this project may well be sound.

However, this is an issue that the Committee in its role of overseeing the financial procedures of the Council has asked Colm O’Callaghan, Deputy Chief Executive (Finance & Legal), to look at again.

We have to ensure that the viability of this approach is reviewed independently of the project team to avoid any implication that the authorisation of additional budget was being taken for granted.

The Charter Market, St Albans BID and Marlborough Pavilion issues were dealt with by the Audit Committee at its meeting on Tuesday 27 July.

Picture: Christopher Bill on Unsplash. 

Councillor Contact: Roger Butterworth, Chair of the Audit Committee: 07410 133 555, 

Contact for the media: John McJannet, Principal Communications Officer: 01727 819533,