£3.6m cash to help small firms in Covid crisis ignores East End’s high rents, mayor warns

Mayor Biggs' letter to chancellor... Covid fund "simply doesn�t go far enough to help East End busin

Mayor Biggs' letter to chancellor... Covid fund "simply doesn�t go far enough to help East End businesses." Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

Cash offered by the government for small businesses to get through the pandemic isn’t enough to meet demand in the East End, Downing Street is being told.

The warning comes from the mayor of Tower Hamlets writing to the chancellor about the Discretionary Grants fund that doesn’t take into account high commercial rents so close to the City.

“It simply doesn’t go far enough,” John Biggs says. “The relatively small pot of money isn’t big enough to make a real difference (to small firms) facing financial challenges.”

He is calling on the chancellor to “urgently reconsider” so that support can be given to small businesses with high commercial rents who would otherwise have been eligible. These include market traders, small charities and workspace rented by start-ups which have seen income drop during the coronavirus restrictions.

The fund is left to local authorities’ discretion, but Tower Hamlets says its £3.6m allocation can’t meet the shortfalls whichever way it divides this up, with one of the highest numbers of small businesses in an area that’s “home to many East End markets”.

It will be “spread too thinly” whichever way the council divides the money, the mayor points out in his letter to Downing Street. Small firms with high rents so close to the Square Mile are left at risk of “falling through the cracks”.

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