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Revealed: 1 in 10 Richmond businesses not eligible for Covid support

Richmond Council’s Coronavirus Survey for Businesses revealed one in ten businesses weren’t eligible for any of the government’s Covid support.

The survey was conducted from 29 June to 19 July with the aim of identifying the support urgently needed by businesses affected by the pandemic. 

Most of the 218 businesses which took part in the survey were in the retail, hospitality, or professional services sectors. 

An overwhelming majority, 91% of businesses, said their finances were negatively impacted by the pandemic. 

Most faced declining sales, cash flow problems, difficulty paying property costs and were forced to reduce staff or change the way they operate. 

Liberal Democrat Councillor Richard Baker, Lead Member for Business, said: “Central government designed the schemes and established the parameters against which local authorities were to administer the funding. 

“Whilst these schemes were welcome and supported a large number of businesses, they were designed at speed and inevitability contained some gaps.”

Those who weren’t eligible for support included small businesses who didn’t pay business rates, businesses which served their customers directly (rather than ‘customer facing’), ‘essential services’ such as dentists who had to stay open but customers stayed away, self-employed individuals with an income over £50,000, and the recently self-employed. 

A specific problem for Richmond was the high property value in the area meant the government’s rateable value threshold of £51,000 was relatively low and left a number of businesses ineligible. 

Richmond Council supported the ‘Raise the Bar’ campaign which unsuccessfully lobbied the government to raise the rateable value threshold. 

Councillor Baker said: “These are examples of where the government support fell short in reaching many of our businesses in Richmond. 

“Throughout, the Council made representation to government directly and via London Councils, but was limited in the action that it could take. 

“However, we did well in ensuring that those businesses that were eligible could take up the support that was available, and in the vast majority of cases this was completed efficiently and swiftly.”

Councillor Kate Howard, Joint Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party Group, said: “There’s a belief that goes across the country that at the moment the government seems to be controlling everything and the councils don’t appear to be controlling much.

“It would help if the government did give the councils more control and I think that businesses might approach councils more freely and confidently.

“The times are so difficult at the moment for everyone. 

“This is not a political thing, this is a humanity issue.”

The government is offering many schemes for businesses of different sizes to access funding including loans, tax or business rates holidays, and cash grants. 

The well-known Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme paid 80% of furloughed workers’ salaries.

The Small Business Grants, another popular scheme in Richmond, offer a £10,000 grant for businesses eligible for small business rate relief. 

The government is continuing to offer many of the schemes, but with lower pay-outs and deadlines this month to claim support. 

Going forward, the Council plans to focus on the sectors badly affected by the pandemic. 

This includes a new business support programme with a focus on start-ups and early stage businesses as well as a focus on providing access to professional advice on key issues concerning business survival and growth. 

People are also returning to the high street and Richmond Council has launched its Shop Local campaign to help businesses. 

Information on the support available for businesses can be found on the government website.

Feature image credit: Tim Linwood, Creative Commons

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