Trade groups say 3 in 4 members can’t afford next rent payments and ask government for more support

Guardians of the Arches traders outside parliament in 2018.

Guardians of the Arches traders outside parliament in 2018. - Credit: Archant

Trade groups representing small businesses across London have called on chancellor Rishi Sunak to help thousands of firms who are missing out on government support.

Guardians of the Arches, which was formed in London Fields and represents traders in railway arches nationally, and the East End Trades Guild, say a survey of their members shows 77 per cent will fail to meet their next rental payments. And 42% have not been able to access any grants.

The groups have now set out four requests to the government, including a London weighting that would see the small business rates relief and grant threshold increased from £15,000 to £25,000. They also want the threshold for retail, leisure and hospitality grants increased to £100,000 from £51,000.

They have also asked for councils and landlords to be given resources so they can offer unconditional support on rents – which they want to be scrapped for six months – and to help those missing out on support through hardship funds.

Many micro enterprises in London are ineligible for support because the rateable value of their building is too high. Many businesses which serve the retail, hospitality and leisure industry cannot access support despite losing all income. The last demand is for the grants to be expanded to these firms.

Leni Jones, managing director of Guardians of the Arches, said: “We represent exactly the type of business the government has said it wants to support through this crisis. But despite the efforts so far, too many of our members are falling through the cracks.

“As the government considers further social distancing for the long term, our locally accessible businesses, service providers and community organisations must be protected to keep our economy running.

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“We are business people, and we’re not looking for free handouts. But the reality is the government’s intention to do whatever it takes to help businesses like ours is not feeding through the system, and many of our members are facing immediate bankruptcy as a result.

“We are asking for urgent action to shore up the prospects of thousands of small and micro enterprises around the country, before it’s too late.”

Last month The Arch Company, which bought 4,455 railway arches from Network Rail in 2018, was pressured into freezing rents for all of its tenants for three months, as TfL and Network Rail had done.

Last month Hackney mayor Phil Glanville and business chief Cllr Guy Nicholson wrote to Mr Sunak with a similar request.