Eight weeks to save Gloucestershire's high streets
By Rob Freeman | 4th May 2020
High streets in Gloucestershire are on the brink of collapse as the eight-week countdown to the next quarterly rent instalment begins.
That is the stark warning from the #RaiseTheBar campaign, which is supported by Business Improvement Districts.
Figures released today show 54,638 businesses from pubs to shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, galleries and gyms are unable to access grants of £25,000 from the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant fund as their business rates valuation falls above £51,000.
In the Cheltenham BID zone alone, 149 businesses are missing out on the grants.
A £617million discretionary fund announced by Government to help businesses who were missing out on the grants does not go far enough according to industry bodies, associations and business owners across the UK, with no guarantees local authorities will issue relief.
The #RaiseTheBar campaign estimates a maximum of £1.365billion in government support is needed to enable the fund to support all 54,638 businesses.
And it warned that could prove the difference between survival and bankruptcy.
Cheltenham BID director Kevan Blackadder said: "We have businesses as diverse as independent jewellers, theatres, cafes, pubs and restaurants and fashion retailers in Cheltenham in desperate need of this money.
"Action is needed from the Government now."
Eighty-six Conservative MPs have signed a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for the rateable value threshold to be increased for the grant which would enable businesses to mitigate significant stock losses and cashflow challenges, including rent, that wage subsidies do not address.
Claire Alexander, owner of The Ebrington Arms in Chipping Campden and The Killingworth Castle in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, said: "We were utterly floored when the announcement to save hospitality turned out to mean next to nothing for us because we pay too much in business rates.
"Nine thousand pubs like ours are left out and the face of the British pub will change forever if it not extended.
"We are the main employer in our villages, responsible for the wages of 47 families but we stand to lose everything as we have been abandoned by the grant scheme and its arbitrary cut off point as our business rates are £75,000 and £72,000.
"The Government has effectively said my business, my staff and the best pubs in the UK aren't worth saving."
Many businesses are not in a position to take on further debt or have serious misgivings about being able to survive the recovery and service loans. Other cash pressures include suppliers, service charges and the cost of re-opening to repurchase stock and ongoing
Matthew Sims, chief executive of Croydon BID and co-founder of the #RaiseTheBar campaign, said: "Access to the RHLG grant is a ticking time bomb for tens of thousands of businesses on our high streets and in our local communities.
"There are just eight weeks until rent is due and the prospect of going under is an uncomfortable truth the Government needs to hear and act upon now.
"The consequences of failing to increase the business rates threshold are too grim to bear."
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