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Government money for small businesses that missed out on grants ‘might not be enough’

Around £3million could be set aside to help businesses that have fallen through the cracks

04 May, 2020 — By by Sam Ferguson

SMALL businesses that have fallen through the cracks in the government’s coronavirus rescue packages could be set to benefit from extra funding released to the council.

Islington finance chief Cllr Satnam Gill told the Tribune the extra money, thought to be between £2-3million, is “not enough” but should go some of the way towards helping some of the traders in the borough who were not eligible for government grants announced in March.

Those grants, which came from a £57million pot given to the council by the government, were only accessible by retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000.

Businesses who do not pay business rates, or whose rates fell below the minimum threshold, cannot access the grants.

“There are quite a few who pay rates and rent together to a landlord, not to the local authority,” said Cllr Gill.

“They get caught in all sorts of little gaps. So that money is to help them.

“I don’t think that it’s enough, but it will allow us to help the businesses that are really desperate. We don’t know what the demand will be but it could be huge.

“We might not be able to help all the businesses, but we’ll try to intervene and give emergency help to the ones that need it most.

“We could try to establish something similar to the resident crisis support scheme for smaller businesses caught in this situation.”

Last week, the Tribune reported on the Lizzy on the Green café in Newington Green, which pays a rent to the council rather than business rates.

Owner Lizzy Bassham had resorted to fundraising to cover her costs during the lockdown.

As well as the money for small businesses, the government has also released around £6million nationally to support business improvement districts.

Islington has two business improvement districts in Angel and Clerkenwell, and it’s thought they will see a share of the national pot to the tune of between £20-30,000.

Though the government has announced the two sets of new funding, it’s understood council finance officers are waiting for the exact amounts to be published.

“These areas [Clerkenwell and Angel] have specialised business units that are funded by the businesses,” said Cllr Gill.

“For that the businesses in the areas pay some rates every year. But because they’re not paying rates those two zones can’t survive. The amount the government is paying won’t cover the full costs of the business improvement districts for a year, only some of the costs.”


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