Friday 1 May 2020 8:44 am

Coronavirus: London's dynamic economy will return

Rajesh Agrawal is deputy London mayor for business.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed virtually every aspect of the way we live and its awful legacy will be felt for a long time. Above all, the loss of life is clearly the most terrible and important impact – and the reason we must do whatever it takes to reduce and ultimately to prevent transmission.  

The effects of the lockdown are being felt by companies of all sizes and sectors, and their employees. While we cannot rush the process of exiting from lockdown, we need to do all we can to keep our small businesses afloat – so that when the time comes they’re ready to bring back the jobs which half of London’s employees rely on, as well as helping our city recover its sense of self and its rich social and cultural life.

Read more: Self-employment measures don’t go far enough for Londoners

Londoners love their favourite independent businesses – the cafes, bars, restaurants, shops and other traders which keep the capital’s local town centres and high streets vibrant. Many are already supporting shops and businesses which have been able to pivot quickly to trading online.

But for some this isn’t an option – and, even for those who can, it may not generate enough turnover to meet their fixed costs. Despite the Government’s financial support schemes, many still face the worrying prospect of paying rent and other bills without a steady source of revenue.

That’s why Sadiq Khan has launched a new crowdfunding initiative – called Pay It Forward London – aimed at helping members of the public support businesses which are currently struggling. The scheme lets Londoners pay for products or services now, which can be delivered once businesses return to normal or near-normal operation.

London is home to around a quarter of a million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in sectors which could benefit from Pay It Forward London, including retail, food, hospitality and the creative industries. Between them, they employ around 800,000 people.

Other cities including Barcelona, Budapest and Los Angeles have reached out to us explore if a similar scheme would help their businesses, which are also facing significant disruption and an uncertain future.

I share the Mayor’s determination to do everything we can to help London’s businesses, of all sizes and from all sectors, stay afloat.

So I’m urging business owners to visit and see how this scheme could help them make their way through the challenges we now face as a city.

This scheme is part of a wider package of support City Hall is offering to the capital’s businesses. The Mayor’s London Growth Hub brings together a wide range of expertise and advice into one place and is delivered in partnership with London Economic Action Partnership, the local enterprise partnership for the capital. Through the Growth Hub we’re offering a range of one-to-one support, from videocalls to webinars, to help businesses through the crisis.

The Mayor and I are in regular contact with business leaders to understand how they are coping and Sadiq has lobbied the Government to ensure the financial support on offer reaches everyone who needs it.

It is clear that the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be long-lasting and wide-ranging. There remains a great deal of uncertainty about how our economy – and our city – will look when we emerge from this crisis.

Indeed, the impact of the lockdown on the crucial negotiations around our long-term relationship with the European Union once the transition period comes to an end adds further complexity to an already enormously difficult situation.

But I’m clear that we will emerge – and that London’s dynamic economy will weather the storm of these unprecedented times.

London is a resilient city which has overcome huge challenges in the past. It will do so again.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.