A new campaign entitled #RaiseTheBar is calling for the government to increase access to funding for struggling hospitality businesses during the ongoing pandemic.
According to new research from the campaign, 54,638 businesses, including pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars are currently unable to access the £25,000 Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG) due to their business rates valuation falling between £51,000 and £150,000.
Only those with a business rates value of up to £51,000 can access the vital grant, leaving “tens of thousands of businesses stranded”, and the newly-launched #RaiseTheBar campaign is now calling on the government to raise the threshold cap to £150,000.
Campaign organisers also stated plans for a £617m discretionary government fund announced on 2 May “does not go far enough”, with no guarantees that local authorities will issue relief.
The campaign instead estimates that a maximum of £1.365bn in government support is needed to enable the RHLG grant to support those businesses that fall within a business rates threshold of £51,000 to £150,000.
Organisers also warned that this “urgent action” is needed as soon as possible as businesses face an eight-week countdown until the due date for quarterly rent on 24 June.
The grant would enable these businesses to mitigate significant stock losses and cashflow challenges, including rent, that wage subsidies do not address.
Some 86 Conservative MPs are now supporting the campaign, and wrote an open letter to the chancellor on 1 May, calling for the business rates threshold to be increased. The Shadow Chancellor Rt. Hon. Anneliese Dodds MP has also written to Sunak in order to bring the campaign to his attention.
Matthew Sims, CEO, Croydon BID and co-founder of #RaiseTheBar campaign said: “Access to the RHLG grant is a ticking time bomb for tens of thousands of businesses on our High Streets and in our local communities.
“There are just eight weeks until rent is due and the prospect of going under is an uncomfortable truth the government needs to hear and act upon now. The consequences of failing to increase the business rates threshold are too grim to bear.”
Richard Burge, CEO of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “The government has rightly received praise for its rapid and expansive economic support package during the coronavirus crisis.
“All these measures were introduced at pace, and understandably there are areas where the detail hasn’t worked for all businesses.”
He added: “One crucial hole is the £51,000 national cap on the business rates relief grant – which penalises many small, and independent businesses in the capital simply because of the high land values in London.
“LCCI supports the Raise The Bar campaign, as by raising the rateable value cap it would give thousands of businesses access to the business rates relief that increases their chance of surviving the crisis, and enable them to play a role in London’s recovery.”