Opinion: How we’re supporting businesses during coronavirus pandemic

Cllr Danny Beales reveals how Camden Council is continuing to support local businesses during the Co

Cllr Danny Beales reveals how Camden Council is continuing to support local businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic. - Credit: Archant

High streets across the country were already facing challenging times, through increasing government business rates, rent increases and changing shopping habits, but the local shop has been a vital life line during this crisis.

We’ve seen many businesses in Camden play their part, supporting community organisations financially, offering parking to NHS workers or donating digital devices for children. We know that many businesses are worried about their ability to pay business rates and other costs, both during this period and going forward into an uncertain future.

To support them we have been working quickly to deliver the funding allocated by government. To date we have provided £196 million of business rate relief and paid 3,195 grants to our local businesses, totalling £63.09 million, with more than half being paid to businesses on the same day that we received the funding. What is clear however if that this is simply not enough. I’ve personally countless emails from businesses who miss out on the government’s scheme. Shared workspaces, light industrial users, market traders and those above the artificial rateable value cap – it feels unfair, and it is.

As a result, we are striving to go further to provide as much support as we can, and highlight these gaps, lobbying for further support. Our frontline presence teams are out daily providing practical advice to shops who can open. As a landlord ourselves we have been working to support our tenants, speaking directly to over 300 businesses exploring all available avenues, including rent deferral plans for this quarter where tenants are struggling.

We have also worked to bring together the business community, so we can listen, share expertise and provide the best advice and support to their tenants and members. We are holding monthly meetings with our business board, business districts and Camden’s major landlords. Our major landlords group confirmed a strong commitment to taking a responsible and flexible approach to rent collection at this time.

Although Camden’s response to businesses through this period has been swift we know the months ahead will continue to be challenging.

We are currently working on a design for a new top up grant scheme. We await confirmation of funding from government, but know that this won’t be enough to cover all businesses who were not eligible for the previous grants.

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With this in mind, Camden will continue to lobby government about the gaps in support. We are starting work with local residents and businesses to look at longer-term changes needed to support the revival of our economy as lockdown measures begin to ease.

More changes will be needed to support our economy to work differently. We must turn this challenge into opportunity. An opportunity to recruit workers locally, to support local high streets, to enable a greener economy. In the weeks and months ahead, we will share more information about how together we can ensure no business is left behind and we support economic renewal in Camden. Find the latest information on support available to businesses in Camden including grants, loans, wage support, rent support and other assistance here. How we are supporting our businesses and high streets through the virus pandemic