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Business rates holiday won’t ‘save industry’s bacon’ | News

Yesterday chancellor Rishi Sunak extended the business rates holiday to all retailers, to help mitigate the growing economic impact of coronavirus. All retailers will be granted a 12-month business rates holiday.

The government will also provide £330bn of government-backed loans and guarantees for UK businesses. This will be offered through two schemes. The first for larger firms is a new lending facility agreed with the governor of the Bank of England. The second for small and medium-sized businesses is a business interruption loan scheme extended to £5m with no interest due for the first six months.

“A year’s free business rates is Very good”, the CEO of one high street retailer said.

“However, the loans system will no doubt become complex. It doesn’t sound like it’s going to be immediate and easy. Even then I’m not sure that up to £5m will save a lot of people’s bacon.”

The managing director of one high street retailer agreed: “I think the government rates holiday was inevitable, it should have been announced at the budget. I was surprised it wasn’t. But that was just one part of it. There are many different parts to the equation.

“Few retailers are going to be able to pay rent if their stores are closed, so I think the government is going to have to step in big time again and again and again, and we’ve only seen a fraction of what it needs to do if we’re going to come out the other side.”

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, agreed the government is likely to have to take further steps in the coming weeks to help retailers: “The chancellor has acted swiftly to back retail businesses dealing with the unprecedented challenges created by coronavirus. He is to be congratulated for listening carefully to the concerns of retailers and has delivered a big, bold package of measures that will be a huge cashflow boost and will improve confidence for those affected.

“Business rates are a huge burden for retailers at the best of times. The business rates holiday, together with the announcement of a loan package, represent a vital shot in the arm for a sector facing enormous uncertainty. We still need to see the details and make sure that retailers can access cash with the minimum of delay, but it is a welcome and necessary first step to protect jobs.”

She added: “The chancellor has said he will do whatever is necessary to support business and he has shown that he can respond to the changing need of retailers. While these are the right decisions [for now], the government may have to take further steps as the full effects of the situation unfold.”

Meanwhile, Sunak also announced yesterday that cash grants for the UK’s smallest businesses have been increased from £3000 to £10,000.

“If there is a lockdown then it is going to be pretty detrimental to businesses, so we really do welcome the help from the government”, one Glaswegian womenswear indie said.

“These are unprecedented times and it is good to see that he is recognising small businesses.”

The store owner of one Crewe-based store agreed: “As a small business we definitely welcome the chancellor’s latest announcements of business rates relief and the cash grant.

“However, we are not sure when we will get the packages, how long the coronavirus will last and how long the money will last. If this goes on for many more months, then we will need further help from the government.”

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national chairman Mike Cherry said the key to survival is for the government to deliver on its promises as soon as possible: “Small firms are having their futures threatened in the here and now. They need support in the here and now.

“This unprecedented package of loan guarantees, business rates breaks and cash grants marks a hugely welcome step forward. The key now is to deliver these measures within the coming days with no hold ups at banks, local authorities or central government.

“Some small businesses are already on the brink – they need time and space from landlords, HMRC and lenders over the Next few days before these interventions take effect.”

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