In 2022, Monmouth Chamber of Commerce celebrated 100 years of providing support to the business community by promoting the town as a visitor destination and highlighting the quality and diversity of its businesses – shops, professional offices, and trades. It has also been the conduit of important information on changes to legislation, notice of pending disruptions, the challenges of high rents and rates, and a host of other things that impact business.
Doubtless, it has seen many changes since its formation soon after the Second Word War, when most businesses were privately owned and high street multiples, such as Woolworth, Boots the Chemist, and W H Smith were very much in the minority. The Chamber was then headed by a President, and it enjoyed considerable status, its views and reports on trade being regularly sought by the Borough Council and other Authorities. It met regularly, observed formal procedures, and held an annual black tie dinner dance.
The structure became more relaxed with the turn of the Millennium and the position of President was replaced by a radical experiment which saw four people sharing responsibility for the direction of the Chamber, with the ambition of making it more multilateral. Despite this laudable attempt at true democracy, the lack of a formal composition and absence of one figurehead diminished the relationship that had, for decades, existed between the Chamber, Town, and County Councils. After only two years of trying out this exercise, the helm was once again taken over by one person. However, the title of President was dropped in favour of ‘Chair’ when David Cummings was elected to the post, which he retained, over two terms in office, for an incredible thirteen years.
In 2019, David handed over the reins to Sherren McCabe-Finlayson, who continued to officiate as Chair. Her tenure to date has been one of the most turbulent and stressful experienced by any of her predecessors: coping with floods that ‘marooned’ Monmouth for a few days, the paralysis of Covid, the controversial reshaping by MCC of Monnow Street, and the current downturn in the economy. Along with this, she found time to organise a dinner dance to mark the Chamber’s centenary and has continued with her duty of laying a wreath on Remembrance Sunday, on behalf of all Monmouth businesses. This has demanded endless time and remorseless energy – given voluntarily and without financial
remuneration – whilst maintaining commitment to her own professional activities and some semblance of domestic life.
But one positive has emerged over this period; a renewed and regular communication mechanism has developed between Sherren, the Councils, other commercial organisations, and right up to the Senedd via our Assembly Member Peter Fox.
The Chamber of Commerce has cemented its status as the trusted representative voice of our commercial community and to reflect its reputation the membership has agreed the time is right for the elected ‘leader’ of the Chamber once again to hold the title of President. This will be formally recorded at the next meeting on December 4th. For the time being, Sherren will continue to chair meetings, participate in consultations with Councillors, and monitor the rolling programme of widespread improvements scheduled by Welsh Water. It is now one of the most buoyant and significant business organisations in South-east Wales, with nearly 90 members