Councils and businesses call for clarity over Rishi Sunak's Covid-19 grants

Local businesses called on extra support from the chancellor Rishi Sunak. Picture: Henry Nicholls/PA

Chancellor Rishi Sunak - Credit: PA

Business representatives have called for greater clarity after the chancellor announced a set of new grants to offset the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

On Tuesday Rishi Sunak unveiled support for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure industries with grants up to £9,000, based on the size of business's premises.

The funding was introduced after a new national lockdown was introduced to curb rising coronavirus infections.  

Camden Council business chief Cllr Danny Beales said: “We welcome the announcement of further much needed funding for local businesses.  

“The devil as always is in the detail, and we await the guidance on exactly how much of this funding will be for Camden businesses and eligibility for grants.  

Camden Council business chief Cllr Danny Beales

Camden Council business chief Cllr Danny Beales - Credit: Camden Council

“It is clear though that a tailored funding package is needed for Central London areas which have been additionally affected, specifically measures such an extension of the business rates and VAT relief schemes, which end soon, and targeted support for the cultural and night-time economy which have been hard hit and unable to open since last March.” 

The government has allocated a further £594m for local authorities and devolved administrations to support business which do not qualify for the grants.  

Councils in Barnet and Haringey said they were awaiting more details on the scheme.  

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Westminster Council leader, Cllr Rachael Robathan, said: “Now, more than ever, we need the right government support in place to help businesses recover when lockdown lifts. Westminster is a big employer with one in ten jobs created by the West End. 

“Our 39,000 businesses include more restaurants, cafes and bars than any other council, so today’s announcement of £4.6bn from the chancellor is a welcome step, particularly for the hospitality industry in Westminster which employ tens of thousands of people. 

The new leader of Westminster Council, Cllr Rachael Robathan. Picture: WCC

Westminster Council leader Cllr Rachael Robathan - Credit: Archant

“However we now need urgent clarification now that the business rates holiday will be extended beyond the end of March and that the right formula for grant help is there for businesses to survive the long haul.  

“The economy of Westminster and the West End matters to the UK and if we don’t get the right measures in place now, the damage to this international shop window for Britain will be significant.” 

Hampstead Village BID manager Marcos Gold called the new national lockdown a “blow” to local businesses after a “difficult Christmas period”.  

He said: “We welcomed the announcement from chancellor Rishi Sunak detailing the financial assistance available to closed businesses, but clarity needs to come from Government about what support will be available post-lockdown.  

Marcos Gold, BID Manager at Hampstead Village BID, said it was positive so many incidents were being

Marcos Gold, Hampstead Village BID manager - Credit: Archant

“Our business community will play a vital role in our recovery and will need to be supported to do so.” 

Deanna Bogdanovic, from Muswell Business traders’ association, said: “Much more clarity is needed from the government to ensure businesses can plan and are not left to guess from one week to the next.  

“Communication, especially about when and how the economy can safely re-open has been scant, and announcements about business closing and financial support poorly timed and last minute.  

Deanna Bogdanovic, Muswell Business. Picture: Deanna Bogdanovic

Deanna Bogdanovic, from Muswell Business - Credit: Deanna Bogdanovic

“In an era of unparalleled uncertainty for all of us, the level of stress on cash finances and the mental health of business owners has been ratcheted up to fever pitch whilst confidence plummets.  

“Not many businesses will survive this lockdown."

Lynn Whiting, chair of Steele’s Village Business Association, said her organisation would do all it could to support local traders – but that the chancellor’s support package is “too little too late”.  

Robert Stephenson-Padron, co-coordinator of Belsize Village Business Association, said of 13 local traders the “nearly uniform consensus” is that the scheme is welcome “but insufficient in size, especially if the lockdown goes on for many months”.  

Robert Stephenson-Padron with pet parrott, Coco Lee

Robert Stephenson-Padron, co-coordinator of Belsize Village Business Association - Credit: Archant

He added: “Given the majority of costs for these businesses are labour and rent, if employers have to cover employers’ national insurance and pension for furloughed employees, this makes furlough still quite expensive and if landlords are still charging rents for closed and curtailed properties - which they are - rents alone could absorb much if not all of these grants for some businesses.  

“Furlough should thus cover all associated costs and more grant consideration should be given to actual rental costs.” 

The grants come in addition to business rates relief and the furlough scheme which has been extended until the end of April.  

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