Council and business leaders call for urgent government action to safeguard local businesses

Brighton & Hove’s council leader together with Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership, Brighton Chamber of Commerce, and the Business Innovation District (BID), have written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy requesting urgent help in supporting local businesses through the next phase of the pandemic. 

Impact of Omicron

With Omicron already impacting on events and venues, business leaders are asking the government for more support to ensure that those who have already been most affected are prevented from going under.

The letter acknowledges and welcomes the newly announced injection of £6.9m for Covid-19 Additional Business Rate Relief Fund, but states this amount is insufficient to meet the level of need across the city, particularly given that no furlough, business support grants or self-employment support grants have been proposed by ministers.

Local leaders add that local discretion as to how funding is applied is also needed, to ensure it reaches the businesses that need it most. Brighton & Hove has allocated over £100m of government funding to support struggling businesses throughout the pandemic.

Call for Government to do more

The Brighton & Hove business community and the City Council call on the government to provide: 

  • much needed grant fund support to businesses in the hospitality, retail, arts, and cultural sector
  • an extension of the 12.5% VAT discount beyond 31 March 2022, 
  • further government support to increase the amount of Covid-19 Additional Relief Funding
  • delegated authority to the council to expand the use and application of that funding to support the key sectors of Hospitality, Retail, arts, and culture 

A strong and resilient city

Gavin Stewart, executive director of Brilliant Brighton’s Business Innovation District says: “Brighton & Hove is a strong and resilient city, the recent UK Powerhouse report by Irwin Mitchell placed the city 11th in predicted GVA growth in quarter 4 of this year. 

“With timely and vital support measures from government, we know that the city has the ability to recover and thrive”. 

Brighton & Hove has over 13,000 businesses comprising many small and micro businesses and freelancers. It is a tourism driven economy with strengths in creative digital & IT, arts, and the cultural industries along with innovative technologies within its business base and the city’s two universities. 

A wave of event cancellations and bookings 

As a visitor economy the city continues to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic and the mitigation measures put in place to contain it. The advent of the new variant, Omicron, alongside the sudden growth in cases comes at a most difficult time for businesses who are reporting a wave of event cancellations and bookings. 

Many businesses, particularly those centred around the city’s tourism economy such as those in hospitality, accommodation, and events, rely on the anticipated surge in bookings over the festive period – which is now far from guaranteed. 

The letter warns that without an immediate injection of financial support many local businesses will not survive the winter.

Sector reports are citing losses of over 40% in trade, important events such as the annual Burning of the Clocks have had to be cancelled and a further fall in trade is anticipated through January as infections are predicted to rise. 

Support measures are needed now

Brighton & Hove City Council leader, Phélim Mac Cafferty added:“Together with business leaders we have immediately contacted government with our concerns about the current lack of support to businesses now facing down the immense challenge of Omicron and what that means for trade, staff sickness and income during what is normally a busy festive season.

“Many of our independent small businesses, restaurants, hospitality and music venues have weathered the storm of the three lockdowns – while many sadly closed. Yet this time, as cases soar, staff go off sick and bookings have, in the words of one business representative, “fallen off a cliff”, we have huge concerns for small businesses now without recourse to government business grants, access to a furlough scheme, or self-employment payments.

“From the independent shops of the North Laine to the many in self-employment, the city’s businesses need support measures now. We will continue to lobby government to introduce the support that our vibrant, diverse and essential business sector needs to make it through this challenging winter, and to work alongside business to support our local economy.”