There was some good news for markets in the Chancellor’s budget statement with the threshold on small business rate relief being increased to £15,000. This is a very significant increase and will help take many market traders out of business rate liability. It would not be appropriate to claim all the credit for this concession but getting the threshold increased has been a key element of the Markets Manifesto and I like to think that we have played a significant role in persuading the Chancellor this action was needed.

Coming on top of our recent success in successfully arguing for concessions in respect of the European Services Directive it shows that the markets industry does have an effective voice in getting its message across to government and we do get the results from our campaigning.

Sunday trading was another government issue that was likely to have an impact on markets but the proposal to give local authorities greater powers to extend Sunday trading hours was defeated by around twenty members of the government party joining forces with the opposition. It will be at least 2020 before we see this issue given another airing.

NABMA has just started its programme of Regional Events and our first venue was Market Harborough. It was great to welcome the Leader of the Council, at the opening of the event, to receive the award of Best Small Market Hall from NABMA President Councillor Mick Barker. After Market Harborough we move onto Gloucester, Leeds, Bury and London. You can find out about all these Roadshows by visiting either the NABMA or Love Your Local Market websites.

These Regional Events enable us to network together and they are so important in sharing issues and finding out what our neighbours are doing. I hope that more people will be encouraged to attend the remaining events.

Although not on the official list of Regional Events I really enjoyed visiting Swansea and meeting the market officers from all over Wales. Swansea has a very successful market and Sarah Lawton and her team should be proud of their achievements.

One of the interesting items under discussion at Swansea was rent reviews and getting some information from across the country to see how rental levels are performing. Getting information on open markets is much easier as we evidenced when NABMA undertook a survey around five years ago. Market halls, with their different lengths of occupation and the conditions that apply coupled with whether tenancies or licences are used, are much more difficult when undertaking comparisons. However one of the NABMA priorities for 2016 is to undertake a meaningful survey on rents and we will be doing what we can to not only get information on open markets but also on market halls.

Mentioning surveys brings me to the launch of the Retail Markets Survey 2016. This year the survey will be split into two parts. The “short” survey will be issued firstly and will contain the core questions that have featured for the last five years. Last year we received back just over 300 of these survey forms. This year we are aiming at 350.  On receipt of the “short survey” markets will then be sent the “longer” survey which gives more information about the annual performance of the market and will help us to understand much clearer what is happening in markets. In 2015 we were very disappointed with the response to the “longer” survey with many markets saying that they did not have the information to complete the form. In 2016 we will be delighted to get fifty “longer” survey forms completed.

While we have made a few amendments to cater for some of the issues raised it is very disappointing that markets in many parts of the country are telling us they lack basic information about the way their market is operating. This needs to be addressed. All markets should be doing a review of performance year on year.

Love Your Local Market fortnight will soon be with us. At the moment around 400 markets have registered so we have a long way to go to match the 1200 of 2015. Please go to the Love Your Local Market website and register. It only takes a few minutes.

I have mentioned previously the success of taking Love Your Local Market to Europe. We are adding more countries to the campaign with Belgium being the most recent recruit. This year we are having a European launch of Love Your Local Market at the Elysee Palace in Paris on the 1st May. This will be followed by a UK launch at the Palace of Westminster on the 11th May. Using two prestigious venues like this shows the status of Love Your Local Market and the success we are enjoying.

This year the focus is very much on youth and we are encouraging all markets to hold a youth event and nominate young traders to participate in the National Youth Market on the 2nd and 3rd of September in Manchester. Full details can be found on the Love Your Local Market and Mission for Markets websites.

April is the month we send out our NABMA renewal subscription invoices. I hope what I have said in this article and based on all the other work we do that our members will agree we are an effective voice for markets and we retain their confidence.

Graham Wilson OBE, Chief Exeutive, NABMA.