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The Retailery: Council leader says “there are no plans to close it”

The leader of Havering Council has denied reports that the Retailery in Romford is set to close down.

The venue’s operator Things Made Public has announced it will no longer be running the popular entertainment/business development facility “as of the end of January 2019.”

It puts that down to an application for discretionary rates relief (DRR) being declined by the council.

DRR is a fund that the council can give out to not-for-profit organisations to reduce the amount they pay in business rates by 80 per cent. 

But additional funding provided to councils by central government for the period from 2017 to 2020 is reducing year-on-year and Councillor Damian White said that only registered charities are being considered to receive the benefit.

“Up to now, Things Made Public have been operating this space on behalf of the Council and, because of GLA funding, have had it rent and rate free,” said White. “The fact is our hands are tied. As a responsible local authority looking after public money, we can only offer such relief to recognised and registered charities.

“Unfortunately, the Charity Commission deemed that Things Made Public did not meet their criteria for charitable status and therefore we cannot give them the Business Rates relief that recognised charities are able to receive.”

Things Made Public says it did not apply for charitable status; rather the application was made specifically by the Retailery.

Council Leader Damian White has responded to reports that the Retailery will close down.

Cllr White added: “The Council is now looking for a new operator who will be able to ensure the Retailery can afford to pay the rent and business rates and will protect the current businesses housed in the Retailery, as well as providing a space for new ones to grow.

“I understand the Retailery is a great asset to Romford town centre and I’m pleased it’s become such an important place in so many residents’ lives. I want to reassure residents and businesses that the Council will do everything we can to find an alternative operator to keep the Retailery open.”

Things Made Public is a not-for-profit organisation and says that, without DDR, it will not be able to break even. 

That has led to fears from businesses who rent space at the Retailery that they may have to either pay higher rents of be forced to leave.

Richard Ward, who runs the Italian Kitchen, says he would not be able to pay higher rents and is now looking at other options including moving his business to Chelmsford.

“We worked really hard, built up a great customer base,” he said. “We have a lot of regulars – super regulars I call them – and it’s the result of hard work.

He also praised the support he received from Things Made Public when he moved in about 18 months ago: “Starting a business is quite a lonely place. We’ve got loads of people who have been willing to help and lend advice.”

Council Leader Damian White will be live on Time 107.5 with Mark Dover at 12pm on Monday, 10 December for his monthly interview. The Retailery is expected to be one of the topics up for discussion, as well as a number of other issues affecting people in Havering.

If you have a question for Cllr White, email it to news@time1075.net along with your name and the area you live in and we will try to ask as many as possible.

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