Couple in dispute with town council over free stall offer

Collapsed stalls at Stamford Christmas Festival in 2012
Collapsed stalls at Stamford Christmas Festival in 2012
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A couple are in a battle with a town council to try to get a free stall at a Christmas 
market after the one they had last year collapsed.

Laura Harvey, who owns online business Reloved Vintage, hoped to have a stall at this year’s Stamford Christmas Festival on December 1.

She and her partner Jack Thorpe attended last year’s festival and lost more than £100 worth of stock after high winds caused their stall to 
collapse.

They say they were verbally promised a free stall by last year’s event organiser Ali Hawley-Smith, who also refunded the £75 cost of last year’s stall.

Stamford Town Council took over the running of this festival in April and sent out e-mail invitations to traders on September 11. Jack and Laura, of Normanton, replied that same day expressing their interest but asking for confirmation of the free stall.

Three weeks later town clerk Patricia Stuart-Mogg replied to offer a half-price stall at £45.

Jack said: “We rejected this offer because we were promised a free stall.

“If the council has enough evidence to offer us a 50 per cent stall it surely has enough evidence to honour the free stall offer. A 50 per cent offer is an insult. It suggests they believe us.”

Twelve days later the town clerk sent a further e-mail saying the free stall offer would not be 
made.

After numerous e-mails to the town clerk and members of the events committee, Jack and Laura got a phone call on October 30 saying the free stall offer would not be made, and to make matters worse, the festival was by then fully-booked. The council has since said it would make a stall available.

Jack said: “It would have been so much easier for the council to just honour it. We are not really getting off on the right foot.

“Combined with the lack of communication and how hard they are to deal with, it makes you wonder if you want to deal with them in the future.

“If they had come back straight away and said they were sorry, acknowledged that it happened and were willing to meet us halfway we would probably have said yes. But when they leave you hanging on you get discouraged.

“It’s just bad customer service.”

Jack and Laura then made an official complaint to the town council but it was rejected. A council statement said the original £75 refund was an “unauthorised goodwill gesture” and should not have been made.

It added: “The delay you experienced in obtaining a response is regrettable but was unavoidable and we wholeheartedly apologise for any inconvenience. However, such matters must 
necessarily follow due process, which I am sure you can well appreciate.

“Stamford Town Council does not accept any liability in this matter. However, the offer of a 50 per cent discount on the cost of a stall at the 2013 Christmas Festival remains and Stamford Town Council will ensure that a stall is held available for you until November 15 latest should you wish to take up the offer.”

Jack refused to accept the offer and has appealed the complaint 
decision.

The town clerk and review panel are expected to have considered the appeal by December 6.

Miss Hawley-Smith said she had a contract with Stamford Town Council to facilitate last year’s market and the offer of a free stall was made with the council’s knowledge.

She said the decision to offer a free stall was driven by the council which was ultimately responsible for the event.

She added that the refund was authorised by the town council and the payment was made by the town treasurer.