Fears for trade if grants are axedBy Caroline Cook
November 10, 2010
An organisation which promotes and protects trade in Woodley has said it will struggle to survive if council grants are cut next year.
Members of the Woodley Town Centre Management Initiative raised questions at a quarterly meeting of the group about what would happen to the organisation if it were to lose its annual grants from Wokingham Borough Council and Woodley Town Council due to budget cuts next year.
Town centre manager Jacques Lherbier told the meeting that the WTCMI could not continue in its current format if the grants were lost.
He said: “WTCMI receives two grants from Wokingham Borough Council and Woodley Town Council. Without those the TCMI could not operate as it stands now. I do not know what is going to happen next year all I can say is when I did apply for the grant this year I was told by Wokingham Borough Council that the same amount of money had been earmarked for next year.”
Councillor Keith Baker, executive member for highways and transport, told the meeting that he could confirm that the money from the borough, which is £14,000 for 2010/11, had been earmarked.
Wokingham Borough Council is currently waiting to see how much it will receive from the Government in the form of a local government grant, which will then provide an idea of where savings need to be made.
Mr Lherbier said: “Without the grants the TCMI could not operate as it stands now. Ultimately the work of the TCMI benefits the whole of the borough. It brings more people to use the car parks and it brings business as well.”
Members of the organisation also raised questions about whether Government plans to increase VAT from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent from January, 4, next year would have an impact on traders.
Mr Lherbier said: “It is a concern for business if it diminishes the footfall in the town centre.
“At the moment we have around 50 businesses in the town centre with only three empty shops. In terms of percentage that is very low. What the effect of the cuts will be I do not know.
“Christmas will be a good indication of trade levels and it will be interesting to see what the reaction is of the people who come and shop in Woodley.
“Some of the smaller independent shops have suffered the most as they might not have had the means to promote their products as much but on the whole the business in the town centre is well.”
Lawrence Grebol, representing market traders at the meeting, asked the committee to freeze stall holder rents next year as he said traders would struggle if rents were to rise as well as VAT.
He said: “I was hoping we could maybe keep the rents for the traders the same because if we put the rents up and the VAT kicks in I have a feeling I could lose some stalls. If you up their rents for this year and the VAT increases a lot of them will struggle.”
The WTCMI has also asked town centre businesses for financial support and many have given their help to the organisation with £1,640 of donations coming from Woodley Dental Practice, Fairhomes Estates, John Hicks, Hong Kong Garden, Chapter One, Costa Coffee, Waitrose and others.
The donations will go towards events, flowers and planters, advertising, the WTCMI website and other areas.