A message to our Ward community: Navigating the COVID-19 crisis, and how we can help
Firstly, our heartfelt condolences to anyone in our community who may have lost a loved one, directly or indirectly as a result of COVID-19, or who have contracted the virus and been through the challenges of recovery. You are in our thoughts.
Secondly, with most retail and hospitality trade across our Ward fully suspended, the impact on livelihoods has been immense. We are fully aware of this via our ongoing Ward engagement through this lockdown and again, our thoughts are with you. Our larger professional services firms are not immune, and we are equally cognisant of the severe impact on both your City and global franchises.
We felt that a short, Ward specific, COVID-19 Q&A might help, based on many of our discussions. If you’d like further clarification, a call or email to anyone of us is always welcome. Please see our contact details below.
- What are our civic team doing / what practical help can you give?
Your team are in daily contact, by phone, and email and weekly via ‘Zoom’ conferencing to discuss individual business requests for help/guidance, allocating ‘cases’ amongst us, following up with the Corporation, and trying to respond on a same day basis. Most of our inbound queries are on business rates, or the package of government grants for small businesses and the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors (see below).
Our committee work in providing oversight on the Corporation, and holding them to account, continues in virtual form. These focus on urgent business (with regard to steering the Corporation through this crisis) and focus only on decision items. They are surprisingly effective governance meetings, and each of your civic team continues with their roles on senior Corporation committees.
All of this has one purpose: to do our best for you, our principal stakeholders.
- What economic support is the UK Government (“UKG”) providing?
Wider measures include deferring VAT and Income Tax payments, a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs, a Business Interruption loan scheme (loans up to £5m via the British Business Bank), a Bank of England support mechanism for larger firms, and perhaps of most importance for many Ward businesses, the provision of the Small Business Grants Fund and a Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund.
Government support dynamically evolves, so please use this link as your immediate reference tool: https://tinyurl.com/rnbt34t
- What support is the City of London Corporation (“CoL”) giving for business ratepayers? i) Direct Debits for businesses eligible for 100% relief have been cancelled ii) The enhanced 100% Retail and Leisure Relief is being applied to all eligible businesses. iii) New bills showing a zero balance have been issued this month. iv) Distribution of UKG Small Business and Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Grants. These have commenced and most payments should now have been made following earlier information requests. v) On request, the CoL is agreeing longer payment arrangements.
This is also a dynamic suite of help, and is equally subject to change. Please use this link to view available CoL support:
- What if we are in serviced offices?
The serviced office sector generally takes responsibility to pay the business rate bill. In many cases, the CoL’s revenues team does not have details of individual businesses that operate under these arrangements. Our understanding is that where a small business is operating from a serviced office and is eligible for Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) they will be able to qualify for this money. The CoL is aiming to ensure that these payments are made to individual businesses and not the serviced office provider. CoL recognises that not all eligible business may have claimed SBRR, and they will consider retrospective claims.
From many of our conversations we appreciate there are hurdles here – the best way forward with initial queries is to use this contact email: [email protected] . Please contact us directly if this elicits no response within three days.
- What is CoL doing aside from business support?
CoL has a lead role in London’s resilience response, with its Chief Executive a co-chair of London’s Strategic Co-ordination Group.
As a full spectrum local authority in its own right, it is continuing to provide essential serves across the City, including Adult and Children’s services, homelessness support, critical planning services and supporting HM judiciary at Old Bailey, and in its Port Health Authority role. It also operates part of the nation’s critical food chain infrastructure with its wholesale food markets.
The City of London Police, which leads nationally on fraud, is focusing on identifying and closing down an alarming number of scams that have appeared, in addition to the ongoing protection of the physical City.
- What is the Lord Mayor’s role through this crisis?
We know this is not ‘front of mind’ for most, but the Lord Mayor (currently William Russell) has been continuing his domestic and international business engagement on a virtual basis through the current UK lockdown. His term will continue into a second year to provide continuity leadership, and William will play a key role in ongoing business investment and confidence in the City, vital for the post virus economy.
Your Ward team will do all we can to work with the Mayoral office to support you and your business. Please contact us directly with specific areas of support required, or we can help form ideas with you.
- What is the CoL doing to support those in need and how can we contribute to support those in need.
City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charity funder, has pledged £1 million to a new emergency support fund to help London’s community and voluntary organisations affected by the impact of the COVID-19. The emergency scheme, which will be coordinated by London Funders, will be available to charities facing immediate financial pressures and uncertainty because of the coronavirus.
Giving and volunteering is a very personal decision, and we know many of you have elected to support national or your own community, or corporate initiatives. For those who would like to join your civic team and support City food banks, Age UK’s just giving page may be appropriate – the link follows here: justgiving.com/ageuklondon
We hope this has been helpful. You may have more questions, which of course we will do our best to answer. On a final note, we’d like to leave you with a link to a message from George Bush, Rector of St Mary Le Bow church. George’s dedication to continued pastoral support and care is clear, and we all found this comforting.
With best wishes
Sir Michael Snyder ([email protected] / 07768 233 233)
Alex Barr ([email protected] / 07725 623 486)
Tracey Graham ([email protected] / 07568 600 411)
Alderman Sir Roger Gifford ([email protected] / 020 7246 4000)