Following yesterday’s (16 July) announcement from Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock, BID Leicester have again written to the Chancellor calling for urgent support for the city’s businesses.
Matt Hancock announced that local restrictions will be eased to some extent in Leicester, with non-essential retail given the opportunity to re-open in certain areas. However, enforced closures of the hospitality sector are to remain in place for at least another two weeks. In light of this, BID Director Simon Jenner has reiterated the call for direct grant funding to businesses in the affected area, highlighting their suffering above and beyond their peers in rest of the country.
We are also providing a template letter for you to personalise and send to government – the more letters and emails sent, the more chance there is of Leicester’s voice is heard. We suggest that local business owners write to the Chancellor to make HM Treasury aware of the situation they are facing. To help, we have prepared a template which can be personalised and sent to: email@example.com and CEU.firstname.lastname@example.org . Copy in email@example.com so we can use your experience as we continue to lobby government. Click here to download the letter.
Read the full text of Simon’s letter below. You can also read Simon’s previous letter to the Chancellor here.
Re; Urgent financial support for Leicester businesses
Following on from my letter dated 1 July (enclosed) I am writing again on behalf of businesses in Leicester city centre after the announcement that Leicester will continue to be subject to enforced business closures.
Whilst we welcome the news that non-essential retailers have the opportunity to reopen from 24 July, it would be wrong to overlook the extended hardship these businesses have faced over and above other areas of the country. The process of opening, closing and now re-opening is not without cost; from managing stock levels to bringing staff on and off of the furlough scheme, these businesses have had to fund their way through the mixed messages and uncertainty that has clouded the city since the beginning of June. They now set out on the road to recovery at a disadvantage to their peers across the country.
Our hospitality sector has been given no such lifeline and will lie on the brink of collapse after 19 weeks of enforced closure. It is more urgent than ever that government recognise the continued extension of restrictions in this sector will hamper the long-term economic recovery of the area; these businesses are the life blood of our city, they are a vital part of our local economy as employers and provide important places for our residents to eat, drink and socialise. It is now imperative that an extended business support scheme is implemented, with additional direct grant funding provided to the business affected as soon as possible.
As stated in my previous letter, we suggest the extra support for local businesses is drawn from unspent funds that were allocated to the city to administer the national business support schemes. Leicester City Council are in agreement with this approach – they currently hold £10m in unclaimed funding, which under current regulations needs to be returned to government. Again, BID Leicester is requesting government give them the green light to use these funds to support the city’s businesses.
As you are well aware, from 1 August the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will begin to be phased out with a reduction in the amount that can be claimed for furloughed employees’ salaries – from 80% to 60%. This will result in job losses in the city, with businesses unable to cover increased staff costs after months without trading. BID Leicester is requesting a commitment that the existing scheme will remain in place for Leicester’s businesses, enabling them to access 80% of furloughed employees’ wages for as long as enforced closures are in place.
In both cases, extending existing schemes means businesses can access money quickly, which is vital if they are to survive the cashflow crisis prompted by the continuation of these exceptional measures. We will continue to work closely with Leicester City Council and LLEP as we work towards long-term recovery in the city. I look forward to hearing from you and would be happy to provide further information as required.