After a hard fought and often confusing tussle at today’s Full Council meeting of Sedgemoor District a Labour Group motion calling on the council to reject Government plans to deregulate Sunday trading was finally passed with cross party support.
The motion was proposed by Labour Leader Cllr Mick Lerry (Bridgwater Victoria) and seconded by Deputy leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Bridgwater Westover)
Cllr Lerry said “The Government plans to devolve powers to local councils to set the hours for Sunday trading but these are not powers that local government has asked for. Uncontrolled Sunday Trading is not a tool for economic regeneration and is unpopular with the public-77% of who support the current opening hours. Deregulation will have negative consequences for communities including shopworkers who are already pressured to work longer hours than they wish on Sundays. Deregulation will be a postcode lottery which could leading to zoning and fragmentation and have a domino effect. They tried this during the Olympics and it didn’t work. It just had people working longer and it didn’t create more jobs”
Great British Compromise
The meeting was addressed by Adrian Grabarski from the USDAW Union who said “90% of our members believe the current hours are sufficient and there is no support to further deregulate Sunday trade from the general public too. The Sunday Trading Act was a great British compromise which offered something for everyone and Sundays can be preserved as a special day, especially for families but also for communities”
Tracey Lowther, who works at Bridgwater’s Morrisons store, said “We want the choice to keep our weekends to ourselves if we wish. There’s no support services open Sundays –even Morrisons head office aren’t working. The issue is about quality of life.”
Cllr Ann Fraser (Con,Petherton ) asked “Can somebody tell me what USDAW is?”
Cllr Smedley obliged adding “USDAW is the Union of Shop,Distributive and Allied Workers. The people who work in the shops. We should support them and pass this motion. The legislation is adequate at the moment, if shops stay open longer there’s no extra money to go around only longer hours to work and more overheads to find.”
Attempts to defer
A move by Tories to defer the motion was talked up around the room with Cllr Mark Healey (Con Puriton & Woolavington) suggesting “This might be a knee jerk reaction, we should keep our powder dry”
Cllr Gill Slocombe (Con Wyndham) said “The consultation had to be done by September 16th we’ve missed the boat anyway.”
Cllr Andrew Gilling (Con Knoll) said “When you’re a farmer you don’t get a 5 day week. You’re up every day milking cows and selling the milk to the people and the supermarkets”
Cllr Leigh Redman (Lab Dunwear) said “What’s important is that the Council send a message to the Government stating our position, which should be opposition to extra Sunday opening.”
Cllr John Woodman (Con Huntspill) said “I’m the son of a shopkeeper, a bit like Margaret Thatcher,and I’d have never seen my dad if we’d had Sunday trading”
Sat next to him Cllr Mark Healey proposed that we send the motion after the conclusion of the consultation period, which Labour’s proposers accepted as it would still see the motion passed however at this point Cllr Dawn Hill (Con Cheddar) –acting leader for the day –stepped in and moved a motion to defer the decision which was backed by most Tories and the 2 Ukippers and opposed by Labour, a couple of Tories and the Lib Dem and it looked like the motion might be lost.
Council votes to Oppose further de-regulation
At this point Cllr Lerry challenged the ruling suggesting that as we had just deferred the decision we needed to clarify that that decision was nevertheless supporting the original motion, which sent the top bench into near panic and Monitoring officer Melanie Wellman had to be called in to resolve the wording. Mrs Wellman ruled that the substantive motion still included the original motion and as a result it was passed and became council policy.