Thursday 21 September 2017

Progress On Trader Support During Renewal

Two aspects of the support offered to traders during the renewal process are the Trader Support Program and the Trader Support Fund. One is primarily about business support, including business partners, training, tools and other measures like rent abatement, and one is about financial support for traders experiencing hardship due to renewal.

The aim of these two components is to diminish the impact that renewal might have on trading and to prepare traders for what lies ahead. The support program will be relevant not just for renewal but also for addressing the retail revolution.

On 27th August we published an article titled “What Does The Trader Support Fund Mean?” and we raised some questions about its operation.   While the City of Melbourne has no legal requirement to provide a fund to support traders, it is keen to see some sort of safety net in place. There have since been discussions within the TRC and between concerned traders and the QVMPR /COM/QVM/TRC. Those discussions have been around both the Support Program and the Support Fund and we can convey the following - 

All parties agreed that given that the Support Program’s aim and purpose is to help minimize impact to businesses it cannot be a 'tick the box' exercise, hence a major emphasis was discussed around the need to constantly and progressively monitor results and the efficacy of the Support Program - i.e. Asking Trader participants to review their participation and the assistance provided by various information and advice providers.

With that in mind further thinking and work is currently underway to ensure that the Program can achieve its aims to assist and support Traders during the renewal works (Including the selection of professional independent business experts who can work one on one with Traders as Business Partners etc.)

The release of the Establishment Rules of the Trader Support Fund prompted some Traders to raise specific concerns and questions and these have been addressed as follows:
a) The Agenda Item relating to the Fund  at the CoM's 28/8/17 Council Meeting was amended so as to allow for Trader feedback on the setting up and running of the Fund.
b) As a result feedback has been sought from the TRC and Traders.
c) Discussions have taken place regarding the specific questions and concerns already expressed by Traders (see below).
d) Opportunity for trader feedback is still available. Traders can view the draft Establishment Rules of the Trader Support Fund on the City of Melbourne website(click here) and provide feedback by emailing by Friday 29th September.

Among the main concerns expressed by Traders relative to the Establishment Rules and Fund were:

1) The Fund is only capable of supporting a minimal downturn in total retail sales at the Market. (Currently $8m has been allocated over 5 years for both the Support Fund and the Support Program)
2) Given that serious limitation, the Fund needs to be administrated so as to ensure the most efficient and fairest possible use of those limited funds.
3) Concerns around the Establishment Rules prescriptive approach and the need for more discretion and flexibility to be written into the Rules.
4) The need for the Fund's Establishment Rules to more closely recognize and reflect the vast divergence in the types of businesses that trade at the Market and their exposure to risks and hence their 'safety net' requirements whilst at the same time ensuring that funds are not exhausted inappropriately.
5) And finally the inclusion of a review procedure that will permit Claim denial decisions to be able to be reviewed.

Further discussions are to take place.