Apathy in danger of sinking Sleaford Town Team

Happier times two years ago at the launch. The original eight committee members of Sleaford Town Team, from left - Eddie Jenkins, Andrew Rayner, Catherine Smith, Clare Rayner, Sharon Broadwood, Nigel Gresham, Karen Pole and Bev Jenkins. (Catherine Smith, Nigel Gresham and Sharon Broadwood are no longer members of the team. Photo: AH EMN-160829-144917001
Happier times two years ago at the launch. The original eight committee members of Sleaford Town Team, from left - Eddie Jenkins, Andrew Rayner, Catherine Smith, Clare Rayner, Sharon Broadwood, Nigel Gresham, Karen Pole and Bev Jenkins. (Catherine Smith, Nigel Gresham and Sharon Broadwood are no longer members of the team. Photo: AH EMN-160829-144917001

Crisis talks are set to take place this week in a bid to save the Sleaford Town Team after founders feared it would have to fold - just two years after forming.

The Town Team was set up in October 2014 when a group of local residents and businesspeople were inspired by other Town Team models created by the Mary Portas review of market towns.

Chaired by retail guru Clare Rayner, the Town Team of eight founding members aimed to work with local businesses and residents to boost wealth and employment opportunities in the town through measures including marketing and promotion events funded by membership subscriptions.

After announcing recently the Teenage Market licence was being sold on and relocating to Lincoln to catch more footfall, Mrs Rayner told The Standard she believed the Town Team would have to shut down by the autumn due to volunteer exhaustion and apathy from local businesses and the community with only a handful of companies showing consistent support.

She said: “Few others have really got involved at all – it has all ended up on the shoulders of the same three to four people, and, with businesses of their own or full-time jobs that simply isn’t viable.”

She went on: “It appears that the majority of the traders of the town want the benefits, but won’t put in the effort or get behind activities.”

This week is set to see crisis talks with key members to try to save the project after individuals came forward expressing a desire to carry it on.

She said: “We need to have a meeting with the directors and decide what we are going to do and see what their thoughts are. If other people want to pick it up we have to have those conversations. It could continue, things are changing every day. Someone has come forward interested in taking it on.”

She said: “We even asked if the NKDC regeneration team, or the team at the National Centre for Craft and Design, wanted to take on the Town Team and Teenage Market (for) free, including all branding and social media, but they admitted that even with a dedicated, employed workforce that they don’t have capacity to continue with things.”

District councillor for Sleaford and businessman Mark Suffield had been the first paid up member of the Town Team but later withdrew feeling it was not providing value for money.

He said: “Like anybody, I wanted the best for Sleaford, which is why it was well worth supporting.

“I don’t think it (the Town Team) has added what they had hoped for. Everyone wants the best for the town, but we all know Sleaford could not have a huge retail space because it would erode the surrounding area towns.”