A moment of challenge and change…and opportunities too: Ruth Duston OBE, OC
“Today’s budget acknowledges that while recovery is on the near horizon, the path ahead will be long and challenging.
The extension of financial support, such as the furlough and business rates holiday is welcome, and will help to safeguard thousands of jobs as the recovery gets going.
Businesses thrive on certainty, and while the vaccine is a significant boost for the economy, the nature of the recovery is still very unclear. With the anticipated slow and gradual return of office workers, it is right that the economy is supported in these early months of recovery. It’s vital that as many businesses as possible reopen at the earliest opportunity so we welcome the Restart Grant announcement aimed at incentivising a big reopening in April.
Ongoing support will be a lifeline for many businesses, especially the small and micro businesses in central London, which are such an important part of the capital’s eco-system.
There were 5.7 million micro-businesses in the UK in 2020, accounting for 96% of all businesses. In London there are 1,062,285 – that’s 21.1% of all businesses.
As BIDs, our members are the larger occupiers, but we appreciate that it’s the smaller businesses that create the character and identity of the districts we love. Without them, the task of encouraging the return of the larger corporate occupiers and leisure visitors will be much harder.
Smaller businesses can play a key role in the revitalisation of cities so we must advocate for them. With the right support they can inject new life into vacant retail units and help animate public spaces. I welcome the Chancellor’s interventions today which will support smaller businesses, including more help for the self-employed. Welcome too is the extension of the apprenticeship scheme – the younger generation has been hugely impacted by the pandemic. Our young people are the future leaders of industry and we must listen to them now as we rebuild our economy.
We must go further however. The Government must facilitate innovations across our city by removing red tape and encouraging fresh thinking. I don’t think there is enough of this in the Chancellor’s budget today. The financial support is vital but help in turning good ideas into good growth is as important. I also hope today’s announcements are backed up in due course by clear messaging from the Government as our cities reopen, encouraging people to return safely and with confidence.
A revolution in our towns and cities is coming. BIDs are ready to play their part in the green recovery that has the potential to transform our urban centres. We are committed to tackling air pollution and improving the public realm – thinking outside the box to make our cities more attractive, more accessible and welcoming for our returning workers and visitors. Only radical approaches will achieve what is needed. BIDs are able to galvanise the private sector, turning big ideas into area-wide action.
We now look to the Government to support our endeavours – allowing free enterprise to secure a successful recovery, as heralded by the PM last autumn.
Supporting our smaller businesses and empowering all businesses to innovate and grow will ensure we don’t simply survive this pandemic – seizing this moment of challenge and change to create a lifetime of opportunity.”