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British retailers call on government for support as omicron escalates

By Rachel Douglass

Dec 24, 2021

Retail

Image: Croydon BID

The Business Booster campaign, led by Croydon Business Improvement District (BID) and backed by many other parties throughout the country, is requesting government support for the retail, hospitality and leisure sector “before it is too late”.

A letter addressed to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, has been written on behalf of over 100 destinations in the UK and 100,000 businesses, each urging the government to provide critical financial support.

It comes as cases for the new covid-19 variant, omicron, continue to rise and retailers face significant disruptions following the implementation of the government’s Plan B on December 8. New regulations included the mandatory use of face masks in certain public settings, a covid pass to be compulsory when entering specific locations and a work from home recommendation.

Speculation of tighter measures to come has been growing, with the government set to review restrictions on December 29. The Business Booster campaign has asked for reassurance during this time, as consumer uncertainty continues to impact the Christmas trading period.

“It is baffling and alarming that our chancellor is doggedly sticking to measures which are out of date and out of touch with the stark and desperate reality retail, hospitality and leisure are facing,” commented CEO of Croydon BID and founder of the Business Booster campaign, Matthew Sims, in a statement. “Without swift intervention, many businesses will be faced with closures, layoffs and cutbacks masking the significant financial support Government has ploughed into these sectors during the pandemic a woeful waste of money.”

“Without swift intervention, many businesses will be faced with closures…”

Three overlaying requests have been made in the letter to the prime minister, each with the intention of aiding UK businesses in both the survival of another potential lockdown and the recovery following restrictions.

Its first appeal involved a 100 percent Business Rate Relief package for up to and including March 31, after which it asks for a 50 percent relief package to support recovery. The letter added that the current 25 percent package was implemented for a post-covid scenario, noting that omicron and increased restrictions have continued to make an impact, causing the requirement of further government support.

Another request asked for an extension on the current VAT reduction for the hospitality sector, of 12.5 percent to March 31, 2023. The extension could potentially allow the sector to respond and support the re-emergence of the UK economy, through the increase in consumer confidence.

The letter’s final proposal involved the introduction of 15,000 pound grants of rateable value, to be provided to businesses in the sector, aiding in their survival following the disappointing festive trading period and the impending rent quarter date, December 25.

Furthermore, Croydon BID proposed the introduction of a Discretionary Grant Fund of up to 7,500 pound per claim for freelancers and the self-employed community, to ensure it is properly supported.

The letter was supported by BIDs throughout the UK, the New West End Company and other organisations linked to the sectors in question.