BRADFORD’s Business Improvement District (BID) is throwing its weight behind a national campaign calling on the Government to give more support to businesses hit by the latest Covid crisis.
The BID says new measures announced today by the Chancellor do not go far enough and it is supporting the rapidly-growing #BusinessBooster campaign, which now has backing from more than 100 destinations across the UK and over 100,000 retail, leisure and hospitality businesses.
Bradford BID manager Jonny Noble said: “This is an incredibly worrying time for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in Bradford and across the country.
“Many are still struggling to recover from the impact of long closures dating back to the first lockdown in March 2020 and the current confusion and uncertainty over new measures is just adding to their concerns and hitting public confidence which feeds through into lower footfall, fewer customers and thousands of cancellations of hospitality bookings.
“The fast-spreading Omicron wave also means that many are struggling with staffing and we expect that the numbers testing positive and having to self-isolate will grow leaving some venues without the staff to keep open, which could have a devastating effect.
“This is the busiest time of year for so many businesses and they have been relying on the traditional festive boost in sales and revenue to get them through until the spring.”
He said the latest help announced today by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, including new grants and sick pay rebates for small firms, was “very welcome” but did not go far enough.
He said: “The maximum £6,000 grant is far less than is needed to get businesses through. The extension of the VAT rate reduction and the business rate relief are the very minimum requirements and capping grant support at that level will simply not do the job for many businesses.
In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson the campaign states: “The critical Christmas trading period is in tatters leaving businesses, particularly those within the hospitality, retail and leisure sector teetering on the brink of financial ruin and set to lose £4 billion in sales.
“While we appreciate risks to health due to the Omicron variant, we cannot and should not forget the businesses who have all but been shut down and want to continue trading safely.
“Hospitality is the UK’s third largest sector, employing 3.2 million people – 10 per cent of the UK workforce – and produces £130 billion of economic activity. These sectors are vital to our economic recovery and the current measures in place do not reflect the current concerns faced by businesses across our great nation. We urge you to act in order to save our high streets from extinction.”
The campaign, which is also backed by bodies including the BID Foundation, British BIDs and the Association of Town & City Management (ATCM), calls for measures including a 100 per cent business rate relief for the first three months of 2022, followed by a 50 per cent rate from April 1 to June 30.
It is also calling for the VAT rate reduction to 12.5 per cent for businesses in the most affected sectors to be extended beyond its planned March 22 end date and the reinstatement of grants up to £15,000 to help them survive until business returns to normal.
In addition, the campaign is calling for measures to support the freelance and self-employed community which supports the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors and which, it says, has so far during the pandemic “been largely overlooked.”
It proposes the introduction of a Discretionary Grant Fund of up to £7,500 per claim to ensure this group is appropriately supported.
Matthew Sims, CEO of Croydon BID and Founder of the #BusinessBooster campaign said: “It is baffling and alarming that our Chancellor is doggedly sticking to measures which are out of date and out of touch with the stark and desperate reality retail, hospitality and leisure are facing.
“Without swift intervention, many businesses will be faced with closures, layoffs and cutbacks masking the significant financial support Government has ploughed into these sectors during the pandemic a woeful waste of money.”
Mike Cartwright, from the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said today’s measures were welcome, but warned further support would be needed if restrictions were tightened.
He said:“They will provide some respite to the businesses who have been hit hardest by the latest Covid measures.
“However, if the restrictions persist or are tightened further, then a wider support package, equal to the scale of any new measures, would need to be put in place.
“The Chancellor and his team have engaged with our colleagues at the British Chambers of Commerce recently, and we’ve been able to highlight particular experiences facing businesses at this difficult time.
“With the Omicron variant putting more pressures on public health and the economy, the difficulties may persist for some time to come and so it’s important to get the grants out as quickly as possible.”