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Stowmarket: Start-up funding for business group to end next year

12:04 16 January 2014

The Market Place in Stowmarket

The Market Place in Stowmarket

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The major funding source for a business group tasked with boosting a town’s economy will be phased out next year.

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Stowmarket Town Council has undertaken a three-month review of the funding and work done by the Stowmarket Town Centre Partnership after the authority awarded it more than £100,000 in start-up money over a four-year period.

Town centre manager for the partnership, Sharon Brown, said she had expected the funding to finish in 2014/15 and was preparing to make the group self-sustainable.

“The review overall was very positive. There has been appreciation of the work that we have done, there were no issues with it at all, so onwards and upwards,” she said.

“The events we run will need to become either cost neutral or profitable so we cannot afford to keep paying out – we need to make sure we have an income from the events.

“We will continue to look for sponsorship and continue with more activities, the town guide and website.”

It is understood that further financial support from the town council for targeted projects could be given after 2014/15. The partnership launched its Visit Stowmarket website just before Christmas, giving a guide to what’s on in the area.

Town clerk, David Blackburn, said the review recognised the “key initiatives” delivered by the partnership over the past year, including the Style@Stow shop which aims to promote start-up businesses, the popular classic car show, the Stowmarket’s Got Talent showcase and the Christmas lights switch-on.

“Stowmarket Town Council has worked with the town centre partnership and local stakeholders to conduct a review which examines the promotion of the town centre,” he said.

“It has also highlighted the challenges that are being faced by the town centre partnership in securing its financial future from trading activities once the initial public sector funding comes to an end and also in obtaining wider support from the local business community. We understand that the town centre partnership will now develop an action plan to respond to the various ideas and suggestions made in the review.”

Deputy town mayor, Gerard Brewster, said: “We fully support the concept of the town centre partnership. We shall be meeting with them on a six-monthly basis moving forward. It’s basically to ensure that the targets we are looking for are being met.

“Our concern is that we want the town to be as vibrant as possible and that’s really what the partnership is about, that’s why public money has been put in. We want to see the partnership succeed and we have put a lot of support into that.”

The partnership, which by the end of 2014/15 will have received almost £180,000 in grants from Suffolk councils, currently costs about £30,000 a year to run.

In October, Suffolk County Council announced it would not be giving any further money after supplying grants worth £60,000 over three years.

At the same time, Mid Suffolk District Council, which has paid out about £14,000 over two years, said it would review the funding going forward on a year-by-year basis.

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