Shop needs backing, pleads mobility boss
ASHFORD’S Shopmobility scheme is under threat – barely a year after moving into a new shop in County Square.
Manager Brian Marsh said the project has funding for just three more months and crucially needed more backing from local retailers.
He told the Kentish Express: “A lot of people think we are completely funded by Ashford Borough Council, but that is not the case.
“Some Shopmobility schemes do get most of their funding from the local council, but we need to supplement our funds from other sources.”
It takes about £14,000 a year to run the much valued scheme in Ashford, with funding coming from the borough council, Kent County Council, the Eastern and Coastal Kent Primary Care Trust, and grants.
But the recession seems to have hit funding for charity ventures and the money has dried up.
Costs for the Ashford venture include a peppercorn rent for the office in County Square, electricity, water, rates, and the wages of parttime manager Mr Marsh.
The costs also include having to pay business rates, which Shopmobility believed it would not have to pay as it is a non-profit making venture.
The borough council has indicated it is looking at ways of helping the shop in this area. The Shopmobility scheme not only provides a valuable service to shoppers with a variety of mobility problems, but is also a key source of information for many with disability queries.
Mr Marsh said: “Much of my time is spent answering questions and giving support to people with all sorts of mobility problems.”
The shop stocks scooters of various sizes to suit different demands, and also ordinary wheelchairs for users to rent while shopping in Ashford.
Mr Marsh said: “It is a very useful service, but part of the problem is getting the message out to local retailers and organisations just how valuable a service it is.”
“Many users already have scooters but find it difficult transporting them into town when they come in to do their shopping.”
“It would be marvellous if we could find a major backer for our project, but even if we could get a number of smaller supporters that would help the scheme enormously.
“We drafted a letter to local retailers in the town centre earlier but did not have a single response.”
Shopmobility has been running for seven years in Ashford and was originally based in a small mobile unit in the Godinton Road car park and then in Vicarage Lane car park.
It now has a five-year lease for the shop in the lower basement area of County Square, close to the disability parking spaces in the new indoor car park.
Anyone able to assist the Shopmobility project can call Brian Marsh at the shop on 01233 650063.
The shop is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9.30am to 2pm.
Shopmobility manager Brian Marsh