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Commercial property landlord welcomes Government coronavirus response but says speed is the key

Our Managing Director has welcomed the Government’s response to coronavirus but says more could be done to mitigate its effect on SMEs.

We own a range of business accommodation space throughout the region including in Bristol, Bath, Chippenham and Swindon. A large number of the company’s tenants are SMEs, many of which have been hit hard by the economic downturn.

Managing Director Lindsay Holdoway believes the measures announced on Tuesday evening, including £330bn of business grants and loans, will help businesses in the short term, but faster assistance and guidance is needed to prevent coronavirus wiping out many of the region’s small businesses.

The Government’s advice is currently for anyone in the UK to avoid non-essential travel and contact with others to curb the impact of coronavirus. The impact has been severe on the hospitality industry with cafes, pubs and restaurants seeing trade drying up.

High street names are also being affected with Laura Ashley going into administration and Carphone Warehouse making decisions to shut down its stores. Swedish retail giant H&M and UK department store chain Debenhams have asked their landlords for a rent holiday to combat coronavirus impact.

Lindsay Holdoway said, “Whilst these are unprecedented times and we are facing a very serious situation, the Government needs to be clear about how to deliver help available to SMEs, including those in the hospitality and retail industries, and how they can access it.

“Having watched the press conference, the additional measures the Chancellor announced are very welcome. The issue for the smallest businesses remains how quickly and easily they can access the help.

“Will businesses have to apply for rates relief if in the retail and hospitality industries? When can they apply and it is only effective from 1st April.

“Will assistance grants of £25,000 be processed through local authorities as it relates to rateable value? How involved will the application process be and how quickly will the grants be paid?

“For SME’s who qualify for small business business rates relief who are now eligible for a £10,000 cash grant the same questions apply. In particular, young, creative, agile working companies may be in serviced offices without premises with a defined rateable value. As these grants all appear to be for local authorities to administer, do they have the manpower to process the applications? When will the funds actually be paid?

“As a property company, we would like to help advise our tenants how they can obtain this financial assistance but we are unable to find anything published yet to help with this.”

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