Tuesday 17 March 2020 11:47 am

Coronavirus: Sadiq Khan urges government to extend business relief

Sadiq Khan has asked Boris Johnson for vastly increased financial relief for London businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The mayor of London wrote to Johnson today to ask that “greater levels of assistance to businesses, large and small” is given through through tax breaks and cash handouts during the outbreak.

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Khan has specifically called on the government to bail out pubs, clubs and theatres that will suffer from new draconian social distancing measures announced yesterday.

He added that businesses should be given “help with payroll bills” and that “further extensions in support for statutory sick pay and benefits” are given to freelancers and the self-employed.

Khan held an emergency summit of businesses leaders and advocacy groups last night to draw up the list of requests to help companies stay afloat during the coronavirus downturn.

“I believe the next steps must include…that a sub-group of Cobra is convened urgently to coordinate cross government action to support business and the economy,” Khan’s letter read.

“Businesses told me that they are concerned that action across government is inconsistent and opportunities are being missed to act quickly.

“There needs to be a single Cabinet Minister responsible for dealing with the economic impacts of this crisis, and a single point of contact for business in Whitehall, rather than multiple points of engagement across many government departments. “

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in last week’s Budget that business rates would be suspended for businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000.

However, many London businesses are not eligible for the tax break leading many in hospitality and retail to fear that the Covid-19 outbreak could lead to financial ruin.

This sentiment has increased since Johnson advised people to stop going to pubs, restaurants and theatres yesterday in a dramatic increase in social distancing measures.

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Richard Burge, who attended yesterday’s meeting with Khan, said the capital needed “targeted intervention”.

“Rateable values of many small business premises in London are higher than the £51,000 level that the Government capped the business rates holiday at,” he said.

“This needs to be looked at again immediately, as cashflow is fast running out for some of these businesses.

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“In general terms, we need to ensure that the economic support measures allow people to pay their rent and mortgage, or keep their business afloat. 

“That’s also key to preserving life and ensuring self-isolation compliance.”