In a letter to the Chancellor, Fleur has demanded that the Treasury urgently reform the support package available to businesses and the self-employed to help them navigate Coronavirus.
While she welcomed the Government’s initial package of support, a great many local businesses and freelancers are falling through the net and being left with nothing.
The Government has made cash grants available for through the Small Business Grant Scheme and the Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme, however only businesses eligible for business rate relief can access funding – excluding thousands of small businesses who operate at home or in office spaces.
Putney Theatre has had to cancel six productions, leaving them with a shortfall of more than £30,000. The theatre had hoped the £25,000 cash grant for small businesses would offset this loss, but they have been excluded from support because they do not receive the Business Rates Retail Discount,
Businesses can also access up to £5 million in Government-guaranteed emergency loans through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). However, despite businesses facing an unprecedented level of business interruption and uncertainty, businesses in Putney are being rejected for these loans by several major UK banks on grounds of ‘viability’.
Putney’s 13,000 Self-employed individuals are having to wait until June to receive their support, and thousands of freelancers have been excluded from the support programme altogether.
Freelancers who have set up as 1-2 person limited companies have been denied access to the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), as have freelancers who work primarily through fixed term contracts with employers – which is affecting thousands of individuals in the TV and film industry.
Moreover, if you make a penny more than £50,000 a year in revenue, you will not receive any support through the SEISS.
Speaking on the action taken, Fleur said:
“Thanks to a terrific lobbying effort by unions and my colleagues in Parliament, the Government has finally listened and offered support to local businesses and entrepreneurs. While this a welcome first step, much more work needs to be done. The support offered doesn’t go nearly far enough, and perhaps without realising it the Treasury have excluded thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of businesses and self-employed individuals from this support completely arbitrarily.
These are not mega-wealthy business people – these are hardworking, tax-paying, low to middle income entrepreneurs and small businesses who are staring into the abyss. They deserve and desperately need so much better I will continue to campaign for them.”
In addition to lobbying the Government on businesses and the self-employed, Fleur has been campaigning for charities and voluntary organisations to receive greater support, for greater protection for employees being told they have to come into work and has been in regular contact with UK embassies across the world trying to get Putney residents home who are stranded abroad.
Fleur has also set up a Putney Coronavirus Mutual Support Group and there are over 1200 members helping each other now, with more joining every day. If you are interested, please go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/PutneyCoronavirus
The Wandsworth Chamber of Commerce are also holding weekly online forums for local businesses and self-employed individuals to share their concerns, see here for the latest schedule: https://www.wandsworthchamber.org/calendar-of-events.html. They are also conducting a survey for businesses which can be found on their home page: https://www.wandsworthchamber.org/