City policy chair Catherine McGuinness pens her regular column for City Matters.
This great City has a long history of coming together in times of crisis. Be it fires, plagues or bombs falling from the sky, the residents, businesses and workers of the Square Mile have always stood side-by-side in the face of adversity.
It seems the time has come once again for this same spirit of community, resilience and support in London in response to the threat of COVID-19.
As the political leader of the City of London Corporation, I’m working with colleagues to ensure we are doing everything we can to help and support residents, employees and businesses through these enormously challenging times.
Difficult decisions have already been made to close the majority of our public facing services, but where we can we’ve tried to keep our green spaces open for people needing exercise and fresh air, benefitting physical and mental wellbeing.
Those living in the City can rest assured we will maintain critical functions and services for our communities, support our vulnerable friends and neighbours, and work with all front-line agencies to deal with this crisis.
We’re also helping vital community and voluntary organisations through our charitable arm the City Bridge Trust, which has pledged £1 million to a new emergency support fund also supported by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and investor group London Funders.
But this is a crisis that requires all of us to do our bit. We simply ask that you follow government instructions, and stay at home to save lives and protect the NHS. Please minimise time spent outside of the home, and ensure you stay two metres apart from anyone outside of your household.
In addition, please stop all non-essential use of public transport and respect the ban on public gatherings of more than two people. Don’t go out to meet friends or family members who do not live with you.
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Yes, these rules are tough and unprecedented in peacetime. But they are necessary if we are going to stop the spread of the virus, and we should never lose sight of this fact.
At the City Corporation we understand that many businesses will be under pressure at this time, and we’re working hard to help where we can.
We’ve changed rental payments to monthly billing for directly managed premises, in order to help cashflow for smaller business tenants. We’re also deferring one quarter’s rent for a range of businesses struggling, with no interest charged on the late payment.
Of course, it’s important that the City Corporation also continues to support the UK economy, and that’s why we’re sustaining our work on long-term competitiveness, especially in areas like climate change and financial technology. And we will be speeding the recovery so we are ready, whenever the moment comes, to relaunch a full and strong economy.
We know these will be difficult and even unhappy times for many of our communities and businesses. But this City has come through difficult times in the past, and there are good reasons for a quiet confidence when it comes to our future.
We are all in this together and I’m sure each one of us will rise to the challenge. I for one have faith that we will, once again, prevail in the face of adversity. Keep safe, keep home, and keep well.