Littleport British Legion says changes to charity stall opportunities at Ely market mean it is missing out on valuable fund raising

The Prince of Wales in Ely last year when he undertook a walkabout of Ely market. The market is more

The Prince of Wales in Ely last year when he undertook a walkabout of Ely market. The market is more popular than ever but a branch of the RBL has queried its charity stall changes. Picture: TERRY HARRIS - Credit: © Terry Harris

A Royal British Legion (RBL) branch says it is missing out on fund raising after the district council cut back on the number of Saturdays it allows charity stalls on Ely market.

However East Cambs Trading Company (the district council's trading arm) says a charity stall is available every Thursday and also on the first Saturday of every month.

Littleport branch of the RBL says that prior to this year East Cambs Council allocated a charity stall every Saturday but this has been cut back to one a month.

"Our branch made use of this allocation over a number of years by having a stall in July or August and we were able to raise funds to be spent on local projects as opposed to the Poppy Appeal," said branch president Garth McGowen.

He added: "The Ely branch of the RBL has the stall on the first Saturday of November for the Poppy Appeal, and this is as it should be.

"This means that in order to be fair to other charities a second Saturday cannot be allocated to another branch of the RBL."

Mr McGowen added: "The public in Ely have proved very supportive of our stalls in the past and the lack of an allocation of a stall for this year has lost the branch an estimated £300 for our charity work.

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"This stall would not affect the Ely branch in their efforts for the Poppy Appeal and we would not wish to. The Ely branch must be allowed priority for the stall whilst this policy exists.

"So my question is 'why was the number of Saturdays reduced to one per month and can the council go back to the old policy of one per week'?"

Emma Grima, commercial director at East Cambs Trading Company said: "The Littleport branch of the Royal British Legion has not been in direct contact with Ely Markets since January of this year.

"We would encourage them to get in contact with the markets team to see if we could accommodate a stall on our Thursday market, which also attracts a strong footfall."

She said the market was "proud to offer local charities a stall on the first Saturday of every month and every Thursday, free of charge"

"This particular opportunity is a scheme we have undertaken for some years and is one of the ways we look to bring together the community and showcase some of the fantastic work undertaken by local charities and community organisations."

She said the market faced increasing demand and the council always strived to "deliver a balance".

Ms Grima said: "The continual increase in footfall at the market has both an economic and a social benefit to Ely. "In fact, in 2018 shoppers spent over £6 million at Ely markets and 92 per cent of market shoppers then went on to visit other business in Ely, bringing a further £8.9 million into the local economy."

Explaining why they had changed, she said that some time ago the market did it best to accommodate ad hoc requests for charity stalls.

"This, at times, led to disappointment for a charity or community group as many were unaware of what was required, for example licensing, health and hygiene and public liability insurance," she said.

"To manage expectations, as well as provide more charities and community groups with as much assistance and advice as possible in order to take part, we encouraged those looking to apply for a charity stall to contact us during a six-week window at the start of 2019 to express their interest.

"This has not only formalised previous practice, but also provided opportunities for charities and community groups that had not previously known it was possible to apply."

The changes had seen more charities and community groups come forward and the market teams were supportive of all of them.

"It's not always possible to accommodate every request that we get, but we try as hard as we can to do so," she said.