Vital Support Required for Markets Now
The Cities and Local Growth Unit is a joint unit between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). In the last few days, as a result of the impact of Covid-19, NABMA (The National Association of British Market Authorities) has been discussing with its Town Centre and High Streets Policy Team, Cities and Local Growth Unit, support measures to markets, and market traders, and as a result has compiled a list of the essential support that we believe is needed to support, sustain and relaunch the markets industry.
Sadly, in the last few days, many markets have been forced to close with centuries of tradition lost and many businesses now fighting to survive. The industry is in a critical position. Market operators are giving their traders support wherever possible. They cannot continue to support markets for a long period in this way, and the industry as a whole now needs support and intervention to survive.
NABMA believes that markets should be able to apply for grants from government to sustain their present and future. Importantly, a package of measures must be agreed for those of the 40,000 self-employed and small businesses that cannot benefit from the recent arrangements outlined by the Chancellor that are linked to rateable values of business property. Looking ahead the markets industry also needs to look at the future and how it will adapt, change and be an important part of the high street of towns and cities.
NABMA now urges that a business rescue package is provided by government for its membership; that of the National Market Traders Federation; and the wider markets industry. Five key points would need to be incorporated.
• Support for Traders and Small Businesses
• A Business Interruption Compensation Scheme – reflecting “lost rents”
• Market Start Back Grant Scheme – to get markets back up and running again
• Business Rates – 100% relief for all markets
• A national support programme to restore markets and market trading
About NABMA and Markets
NABMA is the leading markets organisation in the country. For 100 years it has promoted markets on the national stage and also provides a wide portfolio of services for its members. Recent research indicates that there are 1,173 traditional and specialist markets and 32,4000 traders supporting these markets. In addition, there are 9,000 event traders trading at festivals, fairs and galas.
We estimate that there are 57,400 people employed in the sector. Two years ago, the turnover was around £3.1 billion. In terms of the organisation of businesses, then some 77% are sole traders.
1. Supporting Traders and Small Businesses
The lack of available support to self-employed, small and micro businesses that do not have business premises, and therefore a rateable value, is a huge problem to the markets industry and puts at risk the future of many traders, and of course, markets. Many of the National Market Traders Federation (NMTF) members fall into this gap and therefore urgent intervention is needed.
NMTF have informed NABMA that they suggest that identifying the number of traders that need support can be found through individual annual returns to HMRC. They indicate that a scheme and formula could be established by taking an agreed number of years, and then take an average to reflect fluctuating business performance. If appropriate, a cap can be applied. NABMA is prepared to support this measure but stress that this is a matter for NMTF to lead on as the trader membership organisation.
2. A Business Interruption Compensation Scheme
Over 80% of the 1,173 traditional markets in the UK are operated by local authorities. They, in turn, are excluded from the majority of the current business incentives and help, and yet will suffer huge financial impact with the loss of market rents, licence fees, providing incentive schemes etc through either trying to continue to trade, or in many cases, the damaging periods of closure. Many will continue to pay staff, due to their employment contracts, through the Coronavirus crisis and will not claim the 80% employment support.
London authorities will also need to be included in any scheme of benefit reflecting upon their markets and the extra dimension of street trading.
In the aftermath of Covid–19, the wider financial loss and impact on local authorities and their markets can only be recovered locally through council tax, or significant uplifts in the local government financial settlement. The latter option would be a broad-brush approach and would not necessarily reach the authorities that have gone the extra mile and invested to retain their local businesses and support their communities.
Evidence for a compensation scheme could be through internal and external audit, and annual returns, and perhaps a formula to be developed looking at a framework of average loss, with a cap, but recognising the different tiers, funding and structures of local government.
A similar package of support must also be directly available to markets operated by the private sector, charities, community interest companies etc. Losses for these operators can be picked up and evidenced through annual company returns, VAT returns etc.
3. Market Start Back Scheme
The market industry now faces a critical future. Centuries of history and identity are threatened. We believe that some 40,000 plus small businesses are at risk and many local authority and private operators may be questioning if markets in their communities have a future. As a discretionary local government service, with many markets now closed, then some local authorities, recognising the potential for long term budget savings may decide on permanent closure and asset disposal. This is in direct contrast to the government agenda to revitalise town and city centres with markets as a key asset.
Without doubt, many businesses and market traders will be lost to Coronavirus and the industry will need a massive boast when it is time to relaunch. Markets are recognised as part of the renaissance and revitalisation of the high street by government and therefore it is important that a market Start Back grant scheme is available. It is possible that a fund could be established from the £1 billion that is being directed to the Future High Street agenda. Again, such a measure must be available to all market operators.
4. Business Rates
NABMA reiterates that help is urgently required on business rates. Given the Chancellor has announced the abolition of business rates for many businesses then we need to get local authority markets enjoying the benefits of this measure. At the moment, because of restrictions in the local authority finance legislation, a local authority cannot grant a concession to itself on business rates. This means that struggling local authority markets continue to suffer from the burden of business rates. In comparison, private markets can take advantage of the benefit. We need the government to extend relief to local authority markets. We understand that public conveniences currently benefit from the concession, but not markets. It is stressed that the relief must be applied to all precepting authorities, that includes parish, town and community councils – and be a statutory measure, not by application. Markets operated under charitable trusts must also be beneficiaries. The full relief must be available from April 2020 and refunded for the 2019/20 financial year.
5. A National Programme to Restore Markets and Market Trading
Looking forward to when markets can open again then it is clear that an organisation will need to take a lead to provide support and guidance; be a liaison for government; and deliver training and professional development opportunities for the return of current operators and market managers and, hopefully, a new influx to the sector. The industry, after the lessons to be taken from Coronavirus will undoubtedly need to change, and that will require leadership, support and management.
NABMA would suggest that with its track record of achievement and delivery; its large membership across public, private and community sectors, and its ongoing work programme that it should be at the forefront of Start Back. To do this it will need a financial resource to work with government and deliver a Start Back programme working, with the NMTF as our industry partners, and other high street and education leaders.
Markets are part of the fabric of towns and cities across the UK. Each market reflects the character of its neighbourhood and many examples exist whereby over hundreds of years markets have been at the centre of community life, providing livelihoods for numerous businesses, and a source for local produce and other items. They are the breeding grounds for low risk business start-up and will have a major role to play in the aftermath of Coronavirus in their historic settings.
Sadly, they are now at the cross roads and for the majority to even survive, and then have a future, they need support, investment and encouragement. NABMA looks to government to now give that investment and confidence to an industry that that has been part of community and commerce for many centuries.
Chief Executive NABMA
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