Shop needs back­ing, pleads mo­bil­ity boss

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page -

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.

Pic­ture: Gary Browne PD1653776

Shop­mo­bil­ity man­ager Brian Marsh

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