Page 24 - MarketTimesOctober2020
P. 24

  The NMTF, its members and
Tania and Brendan pull out all the stops to support members
  AS WELL as lobbying on a national, regional and local front, NMTF staff have been working flat out to support members, many of whom have gone through their worst nightmare.
On top of struggling to navigate the complexities of the Government grants and support available, and fighting operators over rents and discretionary grants, many people have spent anxious days and nights worrying about when they were going to be able to trade again and whether their businesses would survive.
The NMTF’s Field Support Officers Brendan Dyson and Tania Murphy were in the front line trying to help and support anxious members, pointing them in the right direction for grants and support, and in some cases making personal appeals to market operators or writing to MPs to help traders out.
Tania said: “It was a matter of talking members through what they could claim. Anyone paying business rates qualified for a £10,000 grant but most of our members don’t.
“Then it was an uphill struggle to steer them through getting help through the discretionary top-up fund money.”
She said some local authorities did the right
Tania Murphy
thing, but she spent lockdown negotiating with councils and writing to MPs on behalf of members.
“We had some good wins, but it took an emotional toll on all concerned and when you drew a blank it was upsetting to see the traders you were trying to help utterly broken,” she said.
One large local authority in the south west refused point blank to help traders out. Another in the midlands took the same stance, saying that its indoor traders received the indoor grant and it was meant to cover rent.
That left one trader who had received the £10,000 grant facing rent arrears of £14,000 for the time when he could not trade.
As a result many traders faced crippling rent debts at a time when they needed all their resources to get back up and running.
Tania said that since lockdown she and Brendan had been out and about helping with everything from advice on making markets COVID-compliant to helping new recruits and some indoor traders find their feet on outdoor markets.
“What is heartening is that many outdoor markets are looking quite buoyant with a lot of new faces and people with new ideas seeing markets as a good place to start a business,” she said.
Some indoor markets, like Plymouth, had introduced very effective social distancing measures, Tania said.
“It certainly feels safer in a market like Plymouth than packing into Lidl,” she added.
“It has been incredibly emotional for me, I’m not going to lie,” said Tania. “I am someone who
Brendan Dyson
likes getting involved and I want to help people. But it has been good to see that our market traders are resilient and adaptable. They have shown character and strength. Sadly we will lose some traders but there are new faces and this is a good time to shine a light on how brilliant our markets are and how much they deserve our support.”
Brendan said: “When the crisis started Tania and I were in the office and the phone never stopped ringing. We had to get calls logged and keep ringing members back.
“I remember talking to indoor traders such as greengrocers whose markets had been closed overnight with their entire businesses and stock locked away. It was cruel really.
“We also had some members ringing up almost just for a chat. Some single traders were in lockdown at home and you realise that the market and fellow traders and customers are their family and friends.”
He found a big difference in the way different local authorities responded. Some got it and immediately did the right thing with financial support. Others were difficult.
The NMTF was able to share best practice with members on everything from how to set up delivery services to the best outdoor markets for indoor traders to move on to.
“Since we have been able to get out and about on markets again it has been good to see some new markets starting and a lot of outdoor markets looking very healthy,” Brendan said.
Whilst it seems to be a different story with some indoor markets, the NMTF is determined to continue to work tirelessly to help wherever
 NMTF sneezeguards have proved popular

   22   23   24   25   26