Lib Dem leader calls for guarantees to safeguard market traders

Councillor Tim Bick has called on the council to offer greater security to market traders during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the City Council committed to a rent-free period for Cambridge’s market traders for up to three months, if they weren’t eligible for government support. The government later announced a scheme for self employed people, such as many market traders, offering the prospect of an allowance of 80% of their average trading profits - but with payments only available in June. And the government’s restrictions on retail activity have now stopped most market stalls from operating. Only fresh food and cycle repairs are continuing, but trade is very thin as the rest of us have been asked to limit trips out from home.  
Councillor Tim Bick, who represents the city centre Market Ward, has called on the council now to rethink its offer on rent payments from the traders.
“The council’s original offer was at the time a welcome one which I supported, but it made the traders’ rent free period conditional on government support. Now we know what the government support is, it would be sensible to guarantee there will be no rent to pay for the full 3 month period. It seems clear that the traders won’t get any money from the government for three months anyway - so why not commit upfront and provide them a bit of security? The council can then review this towards the end of the period in the light of the conditions at that time. 
"If nothing has changed in June, there’s a good case that market traders should still not be expected to find the normal rent for stalls they can’t operate out of the allowance for the self employed. The allowance is calculated after their rent has been deducted and it would be inconsistent with the way furloughed employees are being compensated, with 80% of their pay. 
“The stall holders tell me that the current situation creates immediate hardship coupled with considerable uncertainty. The market in Cambridge is fragile. But apart from the impact on traders themselves, I believe the city has a positive interest in safeguarding this asset for the future. If the market falls apart from the impact of Coronavirus, it may be difficult to put it back together again. We would all lose the colour and diversity and tradition that it brings.”

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