SMALL businesses in South Tyneside were celebrating today as the council prepared to make a DIY U-turn.
Housing bosses were meeting retail giant B&Q to discuss changes to a controversial tenants’ decoration funding scheme.
Under the current arrangement, South Tyneside Homes tenants either moving into a new property, or who have had work carried out under the Decent Homes programme, receive a £200 credit card to be spent on redecorating.
But that card can only be used at the B&Q supercentre in South Shields.
It’s a policy which has angered other smaller DIY stores, many of whom claim it places them at a severe disadvantage.
Now the scheme, which was introduced in January 2010, is to undergo an overhaul, to allow the card to be used at other retailers.
Mark Whittle, South Tyneside Homes’s director of investment, was meeting with representatives of B&Q today to open up the decoration scheme for the benefit of independent DIY stores in the borough.
It’s a U-turn which has delighted Walter Metcalfe, 74, who has run his family business, Metcalfe’s Home Decor in Westoe Road, South Shields, for 45 years.
He said: “I would be delighted if this comes about. It is something we have been fighting for over the last three years.
“The old system is grossly unfair and I have had great support from my customers, who have agreed that it was unfair. I’d like to thank them for their backing and loyalty.”
Mr Whittle said: “Following discussions with South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm, we are meeting with B&Q to discuss the options available for changing the scheme to involve more local retailers who also sell decorative products.
“These discussions are still in the very early stages, and we will be working closely with representatives from B&Q and other local businesses to ensure any changes do not impact on the quality and cost of the service.
“As one of the borough’s largest employers, we are committed to working with our partners to invest in the local economy and support other businesses based in South Tyneside.”
Arun Glendinning, B&Q business services manager, said: “We are happy to explore ways that South Tyneside Homes could widen the scheme to enable people to redeem their decorating cards in local independent DIY retailers, as well as B&Q.”
Coun Malcolm added: “Through our ‘Supply South Tyneside’ partnership with BT South Tyneside we are targeting a major increase in how much we spend with local firms.
“Alongside this, we are providing advice and guidance on how businesses in the borough can compete for contracts to supply goods and services, and maximise their chances of securing business from the council and its partners.”