Please find below a copy email that NABMA has sent to the recently appointed High Street Minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP. To add weight to our concerns then it will be helpful if you can make your local MP aware of the representation that NABMA has made, and to ask if they will also write to the Minister endorsing the NABMA concerns and the need for early intervention. NABMA will, of course, be grateful to be copied into any email exchange as appropriate.
The National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) congratulates you on your appointment as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government. We look forward to working with you in the next few months that will be critical for the high street and markets.
Recognising that your portfolio includes the high street we hope that you feel able to actively support the recovery of the market industry, recognising the important role that markets can play in the future of the high street and creating low cost, low risk start-up businesses.
NABMA represents the interest of nearly 300 market operators that include local authority, private sector, charity and community enterprises. Collectively this involves approximately 1,200 traditional markets that are an outlet to some 40,000 medium and small businesses.
Markets have been entrusted with the role of leading the high street and retail out of the pandemic and since March have been community champions by helping to keep the food chain moving and delivering essential supplies within communities. We have experienced a renewed trust in local markets by the return of many previously lost customers, and new customers are also being attracted with perceived safer shopping, particularly on open markets.
Our issue is that market operators have received no specific government financial support since March. The various government schemes have generally not reached markets. We undertook a survey last week and these are the concerning headlines from over 100 markets:
- Only 10% of operators received any support from the Reopening High Street Safely Fund;
- Some 92% of operators have received no funding from the Local Government Income Compensation Scheme;
- 85% of operators consider that their market activities may now be at risk;
- Only approximately 30% of traders from the surveyed markets originally benefitted from the initial business fund grants;
- Approximately 40% of traders received no payment from the Discretionary Grants Markets.
Markets, pre pandemic, were the outlet for some 40,000 SME businesses. If over 50% of markets are more realistically at risk, as a terrible scenario, then this will have a huge impact on these local businesses. If markets are to play a serious role in the renaissance and regeneration of the high street, be a source for start-up business and a leader in the food provenance agenda, then now is the time to give operators some confidence to plan for a future.
As markets are not currently getting financial support, have few resources left and many traders are not returning, then our survey suggests the projected outcome, without intervention, will be a major dent in the government agenda for the recovery of the high street. At present markets have an assumed role in high street recovery that it is unlikely they will be able to fulfil.
NABMA is grateful to the regular contact and support we have from your officials in the Town Centre and High Streets Policy Team, Cities and Local Growth Unit and we have been providing them with regular updates on the issues facing the industry. Our most recent summary indicates that there is a real risk to the future of markets.
A substantial cross section of the industry are sending out a clear message of their concerns as to what markets will be, and look like, into the future. We believe that some 50% of markets, that is now over 600 local and traditional markets, may be at risk by Easter unless government shows some serious support and financial encouragement.
This is a time critical matter. As the new Minister with responsibility for High Streets and Markets, then NABMA would appreciate some early contact with you. Our industry is in a perilous position and we are asking for your earliest intervention to safeguard the markets industry that has been at the heart of towns and cities, and local communities for many centuries.