A group of independent business owners and representatives have come together to present the government with a 5-point plan to save the high street and help indy businesses survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

The group wants the government to use the £2.5 billion already returned by big names like Tesco, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s to create an Independents’ Assistance Fund which can help independent firms with rates, rent and making premises Covid-secure.

They also stress that local authorities have to engage more positively with the business community, learning what they need and where the financial stresses are before they introduce schemes and regulations.

Retail veteran Bill Grimsey said: “Everyone’s suffering in the pandemic but independent businesses have been hit harder than most. People already operating on wafer-thin margins simply can’t afford to lose trade on this scale as well as paying hefty business rates and keeping up with rent arrears. They need help.”

The group’s plan consists of five points:

  1. Targeted and immediate financial assistance from the £2.5 billion fund;

  2. Swift reduction in business rates leading to a review;

  3. Government assistance with rent arrears;

  4. Grants to future-proof premises against Covid-19 and other hazards;

  5. Better consultation by local authorities with business.

Retail Reflections CEO Andrew Busby said: “There are two challenges here: the first is to get independent businesses through the current crisis, and that will need the government to offer grants to sustain them; the second is to find ways for people to prepare for future emergencies so that they can keep trading and keep making money.”

Retail champion Richard Shorney added: “Businesses aren’t asking for a free ride; all we want is some help to get us through Covid, so that we can keep trading, keep the economy running and, most importantly, keep people in jobs. This would be money well spent by the government.”