Pickles – Help for the High Street in the wake of the riots
Hundreds of businesses have already benefited from the multi-million pound package of support made available to communities in the immediate aftermath of the summer disturbances, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced today.
Ministers responded to the riots with immediate help by making a multi-million package of support available in grants and tax relief to ease financial pressures, get shops open and repair damaged high streets, which 35 councils have taken up.
Mr Pickles used a speech to council leaders at the Local Government Association to reaffirm Government's commitment for councils to pull out all the stops, support high street recovery and get businesses back on their feet. He highlighted examples of councils up and down the country that have dedicated time and resources to getting help to individuals and businesses. He also congratulated them for supporting communities to get back up and running, backed up by central government funding and assistance.
Mr Pickles also used his speech to announce that shopkeepers and businesses affected will get extra time to apply for financial support and assistance. The deadline for councils to submit claims under the Government's £20 million High Street Support Scheme was originally set for early November. In response to requests from councils and shopkeepers and to cover the crucial Christmas period, the Communities Secretary has taken the decision to extend the deadline until the New Year. He is adamant that money available must reach those that need it.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:
"Both central and local government are making sure the innocent victims of these mindless acts of looting and violence are not left to pick up the pieces on their own. Real help is being delivered to local firms and local residents.
"Councils deserve immense credit for the way in which they swung into action in the days during and after the disturbances. Local leadership played a massive part in limiting the distress and difficulty that families, individuals and businesses faced.
"It is great to see examples from across the country of how the support can and is being delivered in the right way. Affected councils are still receiving claims from businesses, and we have listened to councils in agreeing more time for them to promote pride and increase footfall in their high streets in the run up to Christmas."
Many councils have been very quick off the mark in offering all kinds of support to local traders:
Croydon Council has provided more than £205,500 of interest free loans to the worst affected traders to help them get back on their feet. Thanks to their swift support, most traders re-opened their businesses very quickly. The council granted £1,000 to any business with a crime reference number to help with the clean up. The police made direct contact with the council, which then made a payment without the need for a formal 'claim' to be made by the affected businesses. So far the council has given £249,000 in hardship grants to businesses, £137,129 in business rates hardship relief, which forms part of the council's £882,000 local investment from the High Street Support Scheme as well as an additional £145,000 being provided from the Croydon Enterprise Loan Fund.
When the Communities Secretary visited Salford he saw how the council quickly put in place an "I love Salford" campaign to galvanise civic pride. Residents and local businesses have been sporting "I love Salford" badges, displayed posters and giant "I love Salford" messages in shop windows.
Wandsworth immediately offered grants of up to £2000 to replace stock, suspended business rates collection straightaway to ease cash flow pressures and introduced a business rate discount scheme for eligible businesses that was backdated to the first day of the riots and will continue until April next year.
In Ealing, small independent traders were given £1,200 each to help them pay for things like new glazing and repairs.
Haringey immediately began to coordinate activity which included the establishment of a dedicated 'Tottenham Business Advice Service' for residents and businesses affected by the riots to receive advice on housing, insurance, legal and business continuity. The Council has offered up to three months hardship relief exemption from business rates for businesses within the affected area.
Wolverhampton will be funding, under the High Street Support Scheme, £110,000 on security blinds; £45,000 on promotions for city centre ("700 reasons to shop in Wolverhampton" campaign - referring to its 700 shops). They have also supported radio coverage and competitions for independent traders.