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Government has 'eight weeks to save the nation's high streets'

04 May 2020 by
Government has 'eight weeks to save the nation's high streets'

UK high streets are on the "brink of collapse" as the eight-week countdown to the next quarterly rent instalment begins, the #RaiseTheBar campaign has said.

The campaign, launched on 21 April by Croydon Business Improvement District and Mr Fox pub in Croydon, has released figures that reveal 54,638 businesses from pubs to shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, galleries and gyms are currently unable to access the £25,000 Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG) because their business rates valuation falls between £51,000 and £150,000.

As part of the RHLG guidance, only those in the retail, hospitality, leisure and assembly sectors with a business rates value of up to £51,000 can access the grant, leaving tens of thousands of businesses stranded.

Organisers behind the campaign say access to the £25,000 grant is the difference "between survival and bankruptcy" for businesses on high streets across England and Wales and would enable businesses to mitigate significant stock losses and cashflow challenges, including rent, that wage subsidies do not cover.

Matthew Sims, chief executive of Croydon BID and co-founder of #RaiseTheBar campaign said: "Access to the RHLG grant is a ticking time bomb for tens of thousands of businesses on our high streets and in our local communities.

"There are just eight weeks until rent is due and the prospect of going under is an uncomfortable truth the government needs to hear and act upon now. The consequences of failing to increase the business rates threshold are to grim to bear."

Richard Burge, chief executive of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry agreed and called the £51,000 cap on the business rates relief grant a "crucial hole" that "penalises many small and independent businesses in the capital" because of the high land values in London.

According to industry bodies, associations and business owners across the UK, plans for a £617m discretionary fund announced by the government on 2 May "do not go far enough" and the fund does not support businesses with a rateable value between £51,000-£150,000.

The campaign which has cross-party support including secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock and shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds, says a total of £1.365bn is needed to support all 54,638 businesses. They are calling on the public to sign the petition at Change.org to bring the signatures to 10,000 for it to be recognised by the government.

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