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West Suffolk reporter email@example.com
Friday, August 8, 2014
A move to potentially ban political parties from west Suffolk’s markets has prompted accusations of politicking against local Conservatives.
Political and pressure groups could be banned from having stalls on market days in Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill under proposals from St Edmundsbury Borough Council.
The move would affect political parties as well as groups such as the Fawcett Society if they are approved by the council’s cabinet next month.
Alaric Pugh, St Edmundsbury’s cabinet member for economic growth, said the proposals had been devised between councillors and traders and that “there is a view that our markets should be reserved as a concourse for buyers and sellers”.
However, UK Independence Party (UKIP) borough councillor Tony Brown said the move was a response to UKIP holding recent stalls in Bury, with both Labour and UKIP having long-standing stalls on Haverhill market.
“We think that’s an attack on free speech,” said Mr Brown.
“I see it as a Conservative council reinforcing their position by not letting any opposition put up stalls. They weren’t worried about it until UKIP put a stall up in Bury.
“The Government want to engage the public more in politics and St Edmundsbury seem to be moving away from openness.”
The proposals are in their early stages and will be discussed by the council’s cabinet next month.
Mr Pugh said: “We have been working with market traders on updating the borough’s market regulations, and having discussed the issue informally with elected members and market traders, there is a view that our markets should be reserved as a concourse for buyers and sellers and not be used as a place for promoting political views or causes.”
Mr Pugh added there would be allowance for political parties to campaign around the town centre on non-market days and elsewhere in the town.
Labour’s Maureen Byrne said she was “totally opposed, extremely cross and angry about it”.
She added: “This again is the Tory majority trying to cut other people’s legs off. They need to be extremely careful about what they decide.”