Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis MP has called on the Government to provide support for businesses who currently fall between the gaps of their rescue packages in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
Mayor Jarvis has written to Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, urging the Government to ensure that all businesses across the region are able to access help where needed.
In South Yorkshire, many businesses are smaller traders or self-employed, and two challenges have emerged since the Coronavirus, putting their survival at risk.
The first is facing small, pop-up firms who do not own the property they occupy, such as coffee shops and independent retailers in business centres, university innovation parks, markets and food courts, and independent co-working spaces, who are missing out on grants.
This is because they are not eligible for grants other businesses receive directly, due to them paying fees for the space they use rather than business rates. Many are also too new to access the scheme offered to self-employed workers – meaning they fall between gaps in Government schemes. This includes businesses operating in places such as Barnsley’s Digital Media Centre, Doncaster’s Wool Market, Sheffield’s Kommune and Rotherham’s Old Town Hall.
The second is self-employed workers in South Yorkshire whose operating profits are too low for them to be eligible for support. These people are in a more precarious position because they are operating in sectors that are lower paid, less secure and less resilient, such as home decorating, beauticians and cleaning. Even those eligible face an unacceptable three-month wait for support to arrive.
Dan Jarvis said: “I am working around the clock to support jobs and businesses across South Yorkshire during this incredibly challenging time for our economy.
“That’s why I established the South Yorkshire COVID-19 Economic Response Group to bring the region’s major institutions together to plan our economic recovery from the virus.
“The Government has taken substantial measures to try and ensure the survival of businesses. However, we know many firms in South Yorkshire are going to fall through the gaps of support.
“I’m pressing the Government to close the gaps urgently. I believe local leaders are best placed to do this, but we need Government to act quickly where issues arise.
“Every hour matters. Otherwise we risk seeing South Yorkshire small businesses, entrepreneurs and hard-working sole traders going to the wall.
“The Government must ensure their support programmes are robust, accessible and support all businesses who need it.”
Lucy Nickson, Vice-Chair of the SCR Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Across the region, hundreds of sole-traders, self-employed people, and those with pop-up businesses are facing a time of huge uncertainty, with unprecedented challenges ahead.
“It is of immense importance for the government to plug the gaps in their support schemes and make sure that as many businesses as possible survive this crisis, to protect livelihoods and the wider economy.”
Martin McKervey, Chair of the Sheffield Property Association and member of the Sheffield Covid-19 Business Response Group said: “The Government has moved swiftly to support jobs and businesses but must redouble efforts to ensure that every viable business experiencing significant impact gets the support they so desperately need.
“Shared workspaces, food halls and other communal workspaces are the places which bring together high-growth businesses, entrepreneurs and independent food outlets serving local produce.
“This gap in the government safety net needs to be plugged now otherwise thousands of businesses may fail. This will decimate livelihoods and do severe damage to the country’s long-term ability to rebuild local economies.”
Nick Morgan, co-founder of Kollider Projects in Sheffield, said: “Kollider at Castle House and it’s wider community, including Kommune and the NVM form an important beacon in Sheffield; having brought an abandoned building back to life, and been a catalyst to kick-starting regeneration in an area of the city in desperate need of it. All of this is now under threat due to the ongoing crisis, and the gaps that currently exist in the government’s support packages.
“Within the community, there are more than 300 people working with us, for us, and building their own businesses; Kommune alone provides some 85-90 jobs across some dozen or so independent traders and our own people. We are doing everything we can to ensure we come through this, but the survival of some traders is under threat while gaps in business support exist. An injection of funds which support a diversity of businesses not currently supported in the government’s support packages is paramount.
“We welcome the Mayor raising this as a matter of urgency with the Secretary of State. We faced many challenges to bring the building back to life, but this is by far the biggest challenge any of us has ever faced, but we can and will come through it with the right support, effort, and determination.”
Daniel Fell, Chief Executive Officer Doncaster Chamber of Commerce, said: “Many firms, particularly sole traders and micro businesses, have highlighted there are major gaps in the support that is available to them. Examples include directors of micro businesses and people who are partly self-employed but have part-time jobs also.
“From listening to our members we know that many appear to be slipping through the cracks and simply cannot claim the financial support which is critical to their business continuity. The quantum of Government support is welcome but companies are crying out for more detail, flexibility and pace. Many firms have hours and days before they get into difficulty not weeks and months.
“At this time of national crisis, it is imperative that to protect businesses and jobs, that government plugs these gaps. Business has acted quickly and responsibly to protect jobs; government has done much to help already but must go further and faster to protect businesses.”