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Letter sent to Chancellor of the Exchequer about the plight of SMEs and micro-businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic

Released on April 20, 2020

On 20 April South Oxfordshire District Council leader, Councillor Sue Cooper and Councillor Robin Bennett Chair of the Green Group Deputy Leader & Cabinet Member for Development & Regeneration wrote to Rishi Sunake, the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the plight of SMEs and micro-businesses during the Covid-19 crisis. The letter is printed below.

Dear Mr Sunak,

I am writing to draw your attention to the plight of SMEs and micro businesses in South Oxfordshire during the Covid-19 crisis.

South Oxfordshire District Council has already targeted significant staff resource at promoting and ensuring implementation of the business rate support schemes, on offering advice to businesses across the district to support our communities, and in ensuring accurate information is available to those who need it.

In South Oxfordshire and our neighbouring district Vale of the White Horse, there are around 20,000 businesses, of which only around 4,500 are eligible business rates payers, leaving over 15,000 businesses in need of more support. A large proportion of these are small and micro businesses.

There are many owner-managed businesses in the UK who own and operate under a Limited Company who have lost all their income and are due nothing – unlike the self-employed and PAYE employees – in a wide range of sectors, from electricians to events.

Businesses in shared offices – where only the overall owner and rate-payer is due the relief payment – also get nothing under the current rates scheme, and our officers have also been contacted by many businesses which haven’t yet been given a rateable value by the Valuation office, which has a large backlog.

Doubtless HMRC are aware of these issues, but we ask that you implement a solution quickly – these small and micro businesses, many family-operated, are keystones in the rural community and the cost of propping up these families through other means during this crisis will be much greater.

Yesterday it was reported that only £1.1 billion of the bank-issued business continuity loan money has made its way to small businesses. Even if they can get through the bureaucracy, small and micro businesses will be understandably wary of taking on debt, especially not knowing how long the lockdown will continue. It would seem more practical and effective to look at something similar to the Swiss approach to this issue, with few strings attached and rapid delivery of funds, including backing for 100% of any loan amounts rather than 80%.

I do want to give a mention to the amazing work being done by our community support and business teams at present, it’s a challenging time for everyone. Our latest up to date advice for businesses can be found at

Kind regards,

South Oxfordshire District Council leader

Councillor Sue Cooper

Deputy Leader & Cabinet Member for Development & Regeneration         

Councillor Robin Bennett

Co-signed by group leaders:

Councillor Jane Murphy – Conservative Party

Councillor Mocky Khan – Labour Party

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak – Henley Residents Group

Councillor Simon Hewerdine – SORT