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Stratford manager welcomes Rishi Sunak’s boost to economy but warns it may not be enough

PUBLISHED: 18:00 08 July 2020

The manager of Stratford's Business Improvement District has warned a second lockdown would hit businesses even harder. Picture: Google

The manager of Stratford's Business Improvement District has warned a second lockdown would hit businesses even harder. Picture: Google

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A town centre manager has welcomed government measures to boost consumer spending unveiled by chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Stratford BID's focus is on improving conditions for businesses and consumers in the town centre. It arranged for murals to be painted above shops and for the colourful zebra crossing opposite the Stratford Centre. Picture: Andrew BakerStratford BID's focus is on improving conditions for businesses and consumers in the town centre. It arranged for murals to be painted above shops and for the colourful zebra crossing opposite the Stratford Centre. Picture: Andrew Baker

Stratford Original Business Improvement District (BID) manager Gianluca Rizzo commented after Mr Sunak announced measures including a stamp duty cut, furlough bonus and eating out discount today (July 8).

He said: “We welcome these new steps taken by the chancellor in his summer statement to boost consumer confidence and spending while trying to support employment.

“With the hospitality industry being hit the hardest the Eat Out to Help Out campaign and slashing VAT might give some restaurants, pubs and eating places a chance to get past a very difficult period.”

The Eat Out to Help Out campaign would see people given a 50 per cent discount when dining out in August. VAT is to be cut on hospitality. The government hopes the measures will prevent mass unemployment.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PAChancellor Rishi Sunak. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA

But Gianluca warned the measures might not be enough, warning the economic recovery could take many more months.

The BID manager also commented on businesses reopening after the further easing of lockdown on July 4.

Asked about the future, he said: “Things can change very quickly. If we have a second wave and we go into another lockdown, it will be harder for business to recover again.

“We need to be realistic about the fact that it is not going to be business as usual for a period of time. We need to create the conditions that will enable businesses to operate.”

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The head of the BID, which was set up by business owners in 2015 to help Stratford town centre thrive, reported anecdotal evidence that most of the area’s reopened shops are operating at around 50 per cent capacity.

However, some owners didn’t reopen, preferring to wait and see how the next few weeks pan out, Gianluca explained.

“It would be a massive cost to reopen now with the risk of having to close in a week or month’s time,” Gianluca added.

And when rates, rents and staff costs are due, some business owners operating at 50pc capacity may decide it no longer makes financial sense to continue at all, he warned.

Reports of increasing footfall in Stratford town centre may signal a rise in consumer confidence, with hard numbers expected this week.

But some consumers also remain cautious when it comes to dining and drinking out. The town centre has about 10 restaurants and five pubs.

“People are not rushing out for a wild night. They want to see how things evolve,” Gianluca said.

He added that clear guidance on safety measures and social distancing would boost confidence while quickly introducing ways to increase capacity will help more hospitality businesses unlock.

This includes speeding up permission for pubs, cafés and restaurants to put tables and chairs outside their premises to boost customer numbers. Something which the town centre’s redesign could allow.

For Newham, with the highest number of furloughed workers in London according to HMRC, such moves can only help.

“It’s about ensuring businesses can survive the next few months so furloughed staff can be brought back into employment, to keep jobs locally,” Gianluca said.


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