Camden business chief challenges chancellor's Covid grants

Cllr Danny Beales (inset) has questioned the scope of Rishi Sunak's funding for businesses

Cllr Danny Beales (inset) has questioned the scope of Rishi Sunak's funding for businesses - Credit: PA/Camden Council

Camden Council has said that new support for struggling businesses announced by the government “won’t go far enough”, as Omicron cases surge across the borough.

Cllr Danny Beales, cabinet member for investing in communities, culture and an inclusive economy, said: “The council, our business networks and partners in Camden across the retail, hospitality and cultural sectors have been calling for much needed financial support.

“Any support is certainly welcome and better than nothing, but it’s clear this won’t go far enough and support all businesses seriously affected by returning COVID restrictions.”

The response comes following the announcement on Tuesday by chancellor Rishi Sunak that businesses affected by the new variant in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England would be eligible for a £6,000 grant. Traders in Hampstead say they were left "disappointed" by the scheme.

The government also said that it would make £102 million available for local authorities to support other businesses. But Cllr Beales criticised the scope of the new support.

“The introduction of new small grants for the hospitality and leisure sectors is welcome, but the retail sector is left out completely,” he said. “Business leaders also point out that £6,000 will not go far to cover lost Christmas earnings.”  

Hospitality and entertainment venues have seen a wave of cancellations since the government announced new coronavirus restrictions on December 8, as customers stay home in a bid to avoid the new variant.   

Between December 15 and 21, 4,876 people tested positive for coronavirus in Camden, an increase of 160% from the previous seven days.   

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Businesses have accused the government of a “lockdown-by-stealth", scaring-off potential customers while refusing to introduce further legal restrictions that would allow venues to access more financial support.  

In a letter sent to the chancellor on December 20, Camden Council had called for full business rates relief until March. This was not part of the government’s new business support package.

“To put this support in context, in terms of the promised business rates relief available, this seems to equate to around 8% of the business rates payable by the 15,000 eligible businesses for the 2021/22 financial year,” said Cllr Beales.  

The government has said that no new coronavirus restrictions will be put in place before Christmas, but it has not ruled out measures for the new year.