Sadiq Khan calls for coronavirus business support


Sadiq Khan says there is “no time to waste” if the government is to prevent business bankruptcies and widespread job loss as a result of coronavirus.

Following a meeting with London business leaders, Mr Khan says “much more rapid and ambitious action” is needed.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, he is calling for urgent steps to build on the “welcome” support for businesses and workers announced in the Budget last week.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak earmarked £7 billion to support the economy against Covid-19 last Wednesday.

This included quicker access to statutory sick pay, and removing the minimum income threshold for Universal Credit so self-employed workers can claim benefits if they get sick.

Business rates for shops, cinemas, and restaurants with a rateable value below £51,000 were scrapped this year.

And there is also an emergency loan fund so businesses can borrow up to £1.2 million to cover cash flow problems.

But the Mayor says Mr Johnson must now provide:

    • A dedicated Cobra sub-group to discuss the business and economic impact of coronavirus
    • A single cabinet Minister with responsibility for the business impact
    • A single point of contact for businesses at Whitehall
    • A dedicated online portal collating information on the legal, HR, insurance and banking implications of the disease, as well as the health risks
    • More payroll support for businesses struggling to pay their workers
    • An increase to statutory sick pay and benefits, to ensure people who are self-isolating can pay their bills

Mr Khan said many quarterly rents will be due next week, and councils will be taking direct debit payments for April business rates – so the government must act fast if payment delays are to be allowed.

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The Mayor attended the emergency Cobra meeting, where ministers decided to increase measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The Government is now advising everyone to practice social distancing – working from home, avoiding public places, and not having visitors – to prevent infection.

Anyone with symptoms – a high temperature or new and continuous cough – must self-isolate for seven days.

If anyone has symptoms in a shared household everyone living there should self-isolate for 14 days.

The Prime Minister said yesterday that the risk of coronavirus is particularly high in London, and the disease is spreading faster in the city.

And Mr Khan said he should attend all future Cobra meetings on coronavirus “in light of the impact on our capital city”.

London businesses are also at particular risk because the high value of property in the capital – this means many have high rateable values, and are not eligible for current Government support.

The Mayor said many pubs, clubs and theatres cannot claim insurance for revenue loss because the government has not banned people from attending – despite the fact that “their doors are all but shut” because of social distancing.

He said: “The government needs to go much further in providing urgent aid and support to meet businesses critical needs if employers are to overcome this challenge.

“There must be a guarantee from the government that no businesses, regardless of their size, will be allowed to fail.”

His words echo the promise from French President Emanuel Macron, who announced €300 billion funding to ensure all businesses in France stay viable.

Mr Khan said: “I cannot stress enough the urgency of the need for these measures. There is no time to waste.”

The Chancellor is expected to announce further funding for British business this afternoon.

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