City Of London Creates £50M Fund To Help Businesses Hit By Lockdown — If Landlords Step Up Too
The City of London Corporation yesterday agreed to launch a new fund that will give small businesses hit by the lack of footfall in the Square Mile financial assistance, so long as their landlords provide financial support to them, too.
A virtual meeting of the members of the Corporation’s Court of Common Council, the main decision-making committee of the City’s governing body, approved the creation of the fund, which will be able to distribute up to £50M in the coming months.
The aim is to support small and independent businesses that have seen their revenue hit by the lack of people coming into the City during the past year; from independent retailers to cafés and restaurants, dentists, dry cleaners and tailors.
The City of London has been particularly desolate during the coronavirus pandemic, due to the low proportion of residents and lack of workers coming in to its usually thriving office buildings. As it opens up in the coming months, with the presumption that people must work from home being eased from April onward, the City wants to help businesses to open that might otherwise choose to remain closed.
Precise details of how the fund will operate are still being worked through, but City of London Planning Committee Deputy Chairman Alastair Moss told Bisnow that landlords will need to do their bit, too. Funds will be only be made available to businesses that can demonstrate they are viable on a going concern basis — and landlords will need to have provided rent forgiveness, not rent deferral, to help the businesses in question to survive the downturn in revenue.
“There are a lot of businesses that rely on footfall, and we don’t want them to go to the wall,” Moss said. “You see from the few locations that are open, there are queues — there is more than enough business to go around, and as things open up, we want them to be able to make the choice to open up and provide the infrastructure the people of the City need.
“Landlords will have to have been supportive and provide not rent deferral, but rent forgiveness," Moss added. "We don’t want businesses to be spending this money just paying landlords. We want to help viable businesses. What we’ve seen is that most landlords and their tenants have worked together, because landlords know that they can either provide support, or have a vacant unit and start paying empty rates.”