A Manifesto for Resilience
This manifesto is a working draft and will be updated in collaboration with our members and partners.
The East End Trades Guild and Guardians of the Arches brings small businesses and the self-employed together to speak as one, pursuing innovation and positive change for local independents and their neighbourhoods. We are the only small business groups to adopt a Community Organising approach. In essence this means that we put people and their communities before trade and profit. It’s what distinguishes us from other business groups and is why our work is vital at this pivotal moment in history.
The current crisis
The common enemy that has bound our diverse membership together in solidarity is a property market that is out of control. For almost a decade we have tirelessly advocated the social, cultural and economic value that our members provide to localities and what we stand to lose. Only now during this national COVID-19 crisis do we see decision makers at Whitehall starting to comprehend the magnitude of what is at stake.
The domino effect of each individual member’s inability to trade has implications for so many. What happens to these businesses and the real people and families who depend on them during and after lockdown?
The oldest umbrella maker in the UK – James Ince Umbrellas – has weathered two world wars and they have never experienced the sudden drop in payments from retailers for goods delivered. Previously expanding drinks manufacturer, Square Root Soda, is meeting their employees each day for lunch via zoom to keep up morale while orders from pubs and bars have dried up. Essential services such as childcare nursery, Maisie Poppins, which has already endured the displacement of their business due to high rents, is now suffering a 60% fall in demand.
Both Landlords and Government are fundamental to the paradigm shift that is required to shore up our economy for the future. Small businesses account for 60% of all employment and yet the offer to them is nowhere near adequate for the immediate or long-term impacts of this crisis. The debt finance the Government has proposed will never allow businesses to recover unless bold and radical action is taken now.
That’s why our alliance is calling for
- An immediate 100% 6 months rent reduction by all landlords of small and micro businesses with a review to extend if necessary
- An immediate freeze of all current rent negotiations for small and micro businesses and the cancellation of all backdated rent past, present and future
- Quantitative easing for the immediate guarantee of wages for employees within small and micro businesses
- Grants to be distributed to all small businesses irrespective of sector
- A Universal Basic Income for the Self Employed
- 3 month suspension of water, gas, electricity bills
- 3 month suspension of taxes and social contributions
Some of the consequences of this crisis could have been averted that’s why it is essential that we take the long view in order to guaruntee that the our economy is never so fragile again. In the medium term we demand interventions that will protect our communities sustainably calling for:
- Legislation and implementation of Community Sales Orders
- Legislation and Implementation of Community Land Banks
- SME and social business development fund
- Legislation and implementation of a Working Rent system based on security of tenure, transparency and affordable rents
- Quantitative easing for Community Land Trusts that brings both residential and commercial space for local jobs and housing
- Legislation and resources to facilitate a mutual aid approach to delivery of local services and the sharing economy
We know this crisis relies on everyone rolling up their sleeves to avert the worst case scenario and that’s why we’re not just asking the Government to act, we’re taking urgent action too. Here’s what we’re doing;
- Crowdfunding – pooling resource to help our members and members of the community in severe crisis
- Looking out for the most vulnerable, printing and distributing leaflets with numbers for elderly people to contact local businesses to stay connected
- Developing a listings directory of what businesses have to offer each other and the community to share on our website and across other community groups
- Working in close collaboration with other local institutions to ensure that we can support each other and stay connected online to offer support and give succour where it is needed
Dramatic rent rises have been squeezing out independent businesses across London, threatening the critical diversity of our city’s economic ecosystem. Even before the full force of the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK we see how vital these businesses have been in other countries, not only offering essential goods and services, but using local knowledge and social connections to provide a familiar anchor in communities at a time of unprecedented uncertainty.
Smaller enterprises are essential to a vibrant and healthy local economy and society. They provide over half of all employment and sustain a distinctive identity that is the defining dimension of London’s cultural heritage. Can you imagine the capital without it’s kaleidoscopic small businesses from Chinatown to Brick Lane, Columbia Road to Portobello Road, and the myriad of markets from Walthamstow to Brixton? It would be a hollow place, with only its silent monuments distinguishing it from everywhere else. This is increasing in likelihood by the day.
Commercial rent increases have been unravelling the social glue and human connectivity that is requisite for long term economic resilience. This means the ability of businesses to weather any unexpected crisis is now severely undermined. That it has taken a crisis of this scale and magnitude for the Government to recognise this is regrettable and we must use this moment to ensure this never happens again. It’s clear that we urgently need radical change if we are to ensure the longevity of a healthy mix of businesses that London’s citizens deserve, visitors pursue and which is essential for the survival of our communities.
We have been actively working to future proof and safeguard our economy by creating a seat at the table for small, independent businesses with local Councils, Transport for London, The Arch Co, Blackstone, Telereal Trillium and the Greater London Authority to co-produce the policies of large landlords together with community based small businesses. In this time of crisis, we must bring unlikely and diverse stakeholders together to find common ground and tackle the huge issues facing our economy and society now, before it is too late.