London Mayor and business groups ask for more government support as lockdown easing is delayed

London Mayor and business groups ask for more government support as lockdown easing is delayed

Sadiq Khan and three London business groups have called on Boris Johnson’s government to do more to help struggling sectors of the capital’s economy after the Prime Minister confirmed that the ending of all Covid restrictions has been delayed by four weeks until 19 July.

The Mayor, London First, the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) all warned that many companies which had pinned their survival hopes on being able to full return to full operation next Monday might not be able to hang on unless more help is provided.

Responding to today’s announcement, Khan warned that “many of our businesses are already struggling for survival” and that Johnson’s news “will add to their worry and anxiety”, and could have “dire consequences for jobs and livelihoods, pushing more businesses in sectors such as culture, nightlife and hospitality to the brink of collapse”.

He called for urgent action to help “all businesses who need it” including by extending the current reduced business rates period, evictions moratorium and furlough scheme “until all restrictions are lifted”.

FSB National Chair Mike Berry said small firms will be “bitterly disappointed” by the news and spoke of the plight of businesses such of nightclubs that have been completely shut throughout the pandemic and called for “the business rates 100 per cent relief for the retail, hospitality and leisure sector”, which are crucial to London’s economy, to be extended beyond their current expiry date on 30 June.

John Dickie, chief executive of London First, made the same call for “further measures to support our leisure and hospitality businesses,” and urged the government to “delay plans to make businesses contribute to the furlough scheme and extend business rates relief”. He added: “Otherwise too many of the places we know and love won’t be around when we finally do unlock.”

For the London Chamber, chief executive Richard Burge said businesses would play their part in protecting the health of their staff and customers but, “businesses that cannot open their doors, or those in quiet city centre areas like the City of London that were banking on a return of commuters from 21 June, should not have to now pay increased furlough contribution. Nor is it the right time for the business rates holiday to end.  Plus many of these directly and indirectly impacted businesses, and those who are self-employed in impacted sectors, will also require further financial support.”

Burge also pointed out that such issues are made worse in London “by the curtailment of international business travel. The government must use this delay period to ensure that we finally have a border system in place that allows for sustainable economic recovery, otherwise we will not capitalise upon the success of the NHS vaccination programme,” he said.

Image from BBC TV news coverage.

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