London business groups renew plea for more government help as tighter Covid rules loom

London business groups renew plea for more government help as tighter Covid rules loom

A fresh plea for government help with protecting swaths of London businesses vital to national economic recovery has been made to Boris Johnson today as the capital faces the prospect of still tighter Covid restrictions being imposed, perhaps within the next 24 hours.

A letter signed by 12 of London’s most influential business groups, representing the retail, hospitality, culture and entertainment sectors and small enterprises across the board, implores the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to “act now to save the businesses of London that are being so heavily impacted by the Tier 4 constraints”.

This latest request for help, which follows a similar overture made just before Christmas by a smaller number of business bodies, comes as detected Covid-19 cases in the capital continue to soar and with health secretary Matt Hancock saying this morning that the government will not “rule anything out” as it strives to control the rapid spread of the coronavirus across the country.

Johnson warned during a BBC TV interview yesterday that further restrictions could be imposed and yesterday evening Labour leader Kier Starmer called for a full national lockdown within 24 hours.

The business groups’ letter tells the PM and Chancellor that immediate action is “imperative” and that, in the face of rapidly rising case levels, “we therefore implore  you” to take steps “to preserve those businesses we can, so that London can be best placed to help the UK recovery we so sorely need”.

The letter asks Johnson and Sunak to:

  • Extend the current VAT relief scheme for the whole of this year.
  • Extend the business rates relief scheme to businesses told they must close under Covid rules throughout 2021.
  • Expand the grants programme delivered by local authorities and adjust it to that based on the number of businesses within a borough rather than the number of residents.
  • Provide targeted support to night-time economy businesses, such as nightclubs, which have been unable to open since March.

The 12 signatories are:

  • Simon Pitkeathley, Chief Executive, Camden Town Unlimited & Euston Town
  • Richard Burge, Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry 
  • Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive, UK Hospitality 
  • John Dickie, Director of Strategy & Policy, London First 
  • David Stringer-Lamarre, Chairman, Institute of Directors, London Region 
  • Matthew Jaffa, Senior External Affairs Manager for London, Federation of Small Businesses
  • Jace Tyrrell, Chief Executive, New West End Company 
  • Ros Morgan, Chief Executive, Heart of London Business Alliance 
  • Bernard Donoghue, Director, Association of Leading Visitor Attractions 
  • Michael Kill, Chief Executive, Night Time Industries Association 
  • Matthew Simms, Chief Executive, Croydon BID 
  • Don Randall, Chair, London Resilience Business Sector Panel

The economy of Greater London has been producing 23% of the UK’s total economic output, according to government figures, and analysis by think tank Centre for Cities found that the capital generates around one third of the UK’s tax yield.

The pandemic has coincided with national government stating that it intends to “level up” the UK economically, a vow repeated by Johnson after agreement was reached with the European Union on a post-Brexit trade agreement on Christmas Eve.

In November, Sunak warned that the “economic emergency” brought about solely by Covid had only just begun. On the same day his new National Infrastructure Strategy document said that infrastructure spending will “significantly shift” and “pivot” away from London in the coming years.

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