East End traders urge Sadiq Khan to pledge to help them recover from Covid

Sadiq Khan with members of East End Trades Guild at Spitalfields City Farm.

Sadiq Khan with members of East End Trades Guild at Spitalfields City Farm. - Credit: EETG

Shopkeepers are campaigning in east London to get London mayor election candidates to pledge to help them recover from the Covid crisis. 

Members of the East End Trades Guild quizzed Labour’s Sadiq Khan on his election trail in Spitalfields on Wednesday, April 21. 

They held an outdoor roundtable discussion at Spitalfields City Farm, drawing his attention to the plight of businesses which have been forced to close for most of the past 12 months. 

Reopening after lockdown is not helping when they are faced with a return to high rents and “outmoded business rates” based on pre-lockdown trade, they told him. 

Mr Khan, who won the 2016 election for mayor, said he “felt compelled” to support the guild’s Commercial Rent Manifesto after hearing stories of traders' success despite barriers they had to overcome before the devastation of Covid hit them.

“We have a rule that any new development has some commercial space that needs to be affordable,” he told the traders. “I'm concerned that a lot of talent is leaving London because they can’t find affordable space.” 

Sadiq agreed to include commercial tenants in the next phase of the GLA’s workspace accreditation scheme, which could be used as a "badge of honour” for landlords who rent out to small businesses.

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The guild said this “badge of honour” was essential for business recovery. 

Landlords should have to prove they meet criteria with small businesses and policymakers in order to win backing from financial institutions that take corporate responsibility seriously, the guild urged.

Fashion accessories shopkeeper Dee urges London mayor candidates to help small businesses recover.

Fashion accessories shopkeeper Dee urges London mayor candidates to help small businesses recover. - Credit: Brokedown Palace

Dee O’Connell, who runs her Brokedown Palace fashion accessories business in Shoreditch, spoke for the guild when she said: “By working together, we can ensure that small business tenants are treated fairly and with compassion, especially during this time of recovery.”  

The East End traders are working towards setting up a community land trust for small enterprises, which would help women and young people who want to set up their own businesses to rent a place that is permanently affordable. 

The guild, which now represents 300 self-employed traders, businesses and social enterprises, has launched a crowdfunder for £17,000, which would cover half a year's salary of a community organiser to develop the manifesto for a sustainable recovery. 

View it at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/fair-rents-for-small-businesses