#RaiseTheBar campaign calls for threshold for vital grant to be raised to protect jobs when furlough scheme ends

The government’s furlough scheme is concealing the true picture of unemployment in Bristol, according to the Bristol City Centre Business Improvement District (BID) and greater support must be given to at risk retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.

The Bristol City Centre BID, along with BARBIE, the Bristol Association of Restaurants, Bars and Independent Establishments, are backing a nationwide campaign calling on government to raise the threshold for its Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Grant (RHLG). Without this, they warn, hundreds of Bristol employees who have been protected by the Coronavirus Job Retention (furlough) Scheme could find no business and therefore no job to return to when the scheme ends.

BARBIE is currently working with 60 at risk Bristol businesses which have not been eligible for government grants, 14 of which are at high risk and together employ 200 people.

Currently businesses such as pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés are only eligible for the £25,000 grant if the premises they operate from has a rateable value of less than £51,000. This means large numbers of leisure and hospitality businesses based in larger buildings in Bristol are cut off from the financial support offered to smaller outlets. These include popular, successful venues in the city centre such as the Milk Thistle on Colston Avenue and No 1 Harbourside, which have also backed the campaign along with dozens of others.

Bristol City Centre BID and the #RaiseTheBar campaign, set up by Croydon BID (Business Improvement District) are calling on central government to expand the rateable value threshold for eligible businesses to access the £25,000 grant from £51,000 to £150,000. Access to this support, they argue, will be the difference between survival and bankruptcy for thousands of High Street businesses in Bristol and across the UK.

Together the BIDs and #RaiseTheBar partners maintain the furlough scheme is hiding the true picture of unemployment in Bristol and the UK, by providing support to employees whilst their employers are facing closure. Adjustments to the furloughing scheme have also created an unlevel playing field of support meaning businesses are missing out on vital funds to stay afloat whilst their employees are able to remain financially supported on furlough.

The situation is likely to reach tipping point this month, with the next quarterly rent due on Wednesday 24 June putting businesses at risk of closure, with overheads and the cost of re-opening depleting cash reserves.

Keith Rundle, operations director at Bristol City Centre BID says:

“The furlough scheme has been a life-line for thousands of Bristol employees as we continue to  battle all that the covid pandemic throws at us. But it will all be wasted if as the scheme is wound up, staff find themselves with no employer or business to return to. With rents due and costs of putting in protection measures prior to safely re-opening, businesses need access to financial support now more than ever – to ensure they can get back up and running, keep people in jobs and help get the economy moving again.”

Brendan Murphy, Co-Founder of BARBIE, the Bristol Association of Restaurants, Bars and Independent Establishments, added:

“There are so many businesses that have been left out of government grants, some because they are over the £51k rateable value cap and others that don’t fit the eligibility criteria which seems to be different depending on which council you are with. We are currently dealing with 14 of such cases that between them employ over 200 staff. Urgent intervention and support is required to stop the industry collapsing and that support is required now, not in 3 months time.”

Amy Devenish, Owner of The Gloucester Old Spot, Bristol commented:

“Simply because a business has a rateable value set at a certain level by the council, It should not immediately assume that the business is any better able to survive a crisis like this. A sliding scale of grants would have been a much fairer solution.”

Kwan Voong, Owner, Toro Noodle Bar added:

“There are a huge number of Bristol businesses over the £51k RV cap in Bristol and we need urgent support as has been provided by councils such as Camden, Hackney and Lambeth who are using their additional discretionary grants to support the hospitality sector.”

Matthew Sims, CEO, Croydon BID and co-founder of #RaiseTheBar campaign commented:

“The Government is in danger of pushing businesses to the brink of the abyss and in turn leaving businesses with no choice but to make serious decisions regarding their future operation, leading to redundancies and even closure. If this happens, the positive work of the Job Retention Scheme would have been short-lived, leaving the country, long term in a far worse position and having spent millions on financial aid supporting the employee, but ignoring the employer.”

Set up by Croydon BID (Business Improvement District), leaders of the #RaiseTheBar campaign believe access to the £25,000 is the difference between survival and bankruptcy for businesses on High Streets across England and Wales, which have welcomed an outpouring of support from the public during lockdown choosing to support their local communities.

For more information on the #RaiseTheBar campaign please visit https://raisethebarcampaign.com/

For more information on Bristol City Centre BID’s support for businesses through the Covid-19 pandemic, please visit https://bristolcitycentrebid.co.uk/corona-virus-covid-19/



Mike Davies
Author: Mike Davies