Council chiefs urge Rishi Sunak to act as hundreds of Hackney businesses unable to access coronavirus support

Old Street and Shoreditch High Street shown in a file image of Hackney's nightlife. Picture: Polly H

Old Street and Shoreditch High Street shown in a file image of Hackney's nightlife. Picture: Polly Hancock. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Hundreds of Hackney businesses say they can’t access the coronavirus support packages because they are the wrong type of firm or the rateable value of their premises is too high.

Staff from Boulevard Events after winning an award. Picture: Daniel Maher

Staff from Boulevard Events after winning an award. Picture: Daniel Maher - Credit: Archant

Mayor Phil Glanville and business chief Cllr Guy Nicholson have now written to chancellor Rishi Sunak about the “significant gaps” in support for certain sectors and called for urgent changes to the qualifying criteria.

Many bars in Shoreditch are ineligible for grants due to their high rateable values, while firms in workspaces that don’t directly pay business rates cannot access the small business rate relief.

Firms that supply the hospitality or entertainment sectors are also in trouble.

Boulevard Events in Hackney Wick has been around since 1988, but is now struggling to stay afloat because their income doesn’t come from a fixed premises.

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Daniel Maher told the Gazette: “We do events catering, weddings, conferences. We had hoped we would be entitled to the hospitality grants but because eligibility is based on rateable values we are not. Our building is not a space that’s open to the public.

“All nine of our staff have been furloughed and five directors are just taking what we can afford to live on. We can’t furlough ourselves because then we can’t operate the business fully.

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“It’s difficult to know how long we can go on. They are talking about easing lockdown measures to some degree but our industry will probably be last as we do events for 100 plus people. And most of our business comes from other businesses, so if they have been impacted they won’t be in a rush to be booking parties.”

Boulevard is now offering meal deliveries in east London, with discounts for health workers.

Trade group Shoreditch Pubwatch said venues with high rateable values won’t be able to get grant funding. A spokesperson said: “Although retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will get rate relief, if businesses are closed long term this will not be enough to ensure survival as other large overheads such as rent start to pile up.”

BBE Interpreting and Translation Services is another that is left in the lurch.

”I have absolutely no work whatsoever, said Beatrice Blackett Espinosa. “Unfortunately, because I am essentially a freelancer but under a Ltd company structure I majorly lose out on the support packages available because I am not eligible for the Self Employment package, and if I furlough myself as an employee of my company I can only receive 80 per cent of my minimum salary and I would not be able to accept work should any come in over those three months”.

The letter from Mr Glanville and Cllr Nicholson asks for six changes.

As it stands, the rateable value threshold for the small business grant fund is £15,000 and the retail, hospitality and leisure fund is £51,000. Hackney wants that reviewed so firms in London with higher values can access them.

The letter also asks for business rate relief and grants for firms that are ineligible but suffering because their income is related to the retail, hospitality, arts and cultural sectors.

Mr Sunak is also urged to extend the self-employment support to individuals using a limited company and to extend business rates relief to workspace providers, who then have to pass that onto their tenants. Workspace tenants should also be allowed to access the small business rate relief of up to £10,000 that other micro businesses and SMEs can access.

The letter also asks for consistency and regulation for commercial landlords to provide certainty to firms that cannot afford to pay rent and for the business interruption loan scheme to be extended by raising the 80 per cent underwriting to 100 per cent or turning it into an equity or grant scheme.

Mayor Glanville and Cllr Nicholson write: “It is essential the pressing issues faced by our local business community, who are currently unable to access existing government support, are acted on urgently to ensure more micro businesses, small and medium sized enterprises and the self-employed are supported and able to stay afloat. We welcome your recent pledge to do ‘whatever it takes’ to keep companies and businesses solvent and we would urge you to take these actions urgently. Businesses require this support now.”

Businesses can join the council’s Hackney Business Network at investinhackney.orgFor the latest coronavirus news from across north London join our Facebook group here. Click here for our directory of support groups for people in Hackney.

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