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The independent London newspaper

‘West End businesses are missing out on help in coronavirus crisis’

On his return as a Labour London Assembly Member, Murad Qureshi says an immediate concern has been over chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund

02 May, 2020 — By Murad Qureshi

Murad Qureshi: ‘We should not be putting up more hurdles in front of London’s businesses’

ON my return to City Hall as a London Assembly Member, I was immediately approached by local businesses on the gateway to the West End, who are suffering from the economic blows that have been dealt by the Covid-19 outbreak.

One of the key issues for these businesses lies in their exclusion from the £25,000 Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund, previously announced by the chancellor.

This funding is unfortunately not available to companies which have a rateable value threshold above £51,000.

Sadly, but inevitably, this has led to a huge number of shops, pubs and entertainment venues in the West End, and across London, missing out on the help they desperately need to stay afloat. Many are confronting myriad and urgent challenges such as having to keep on top of steep rents, while grappling with plummeting footfall levels and a lack of cash flow.

Let’s face it, London would not be the same without a thriving West End, and now more than ever, it must be protected.

It has been concerning to see recent research from the Corporate Finance Network of accountants, which shows that nearly a fifth of all small and medium-sized businesses in the UK are unlikely to get the cash they need to survive the next four weeks, in spite of government aid.

If our high streets and local economy are going to recover and jobs are to be saved, we need to see, as an initial step, the £51,000 threshold raised immediately.

I have now written to the chancellor to add my voice to the growing chorus of politicians and business owners asking him to do just that.

I have also stressed the fact that in this case, and due to its unique position, London needs to be considered differently from the rest of the country.

Elsewhere, City Hall is taking action to assist small and medium-sized businesses in the capital during these difficult circumstances.

Last week, the Mayor of London launched a new ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative. This will provide Londoners with a portal via the GLA website to support their local shops and hospitality and leisure venues, by paying for products in advance for collection after lockdown measures are fully lifted. In addition, these businesses can also access tailored one-to-one advice through City Hall’s London Growth Hub.

At this time, we can all agree that we should not be putting up more hurdles in front of London’s businesses, but ensuring as far possible that they have a clear path to eventual recovery.

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