New scheme launching to help London’s small businesses

‘Grow London Local’ initiative is intended to serve as a “one-stop-shop for small business support”, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

A new £8.7m scheme aimed at helping London’s small businesses has been launched by Sadiq Khan.

It came as the mayor warned that rising food costs – expected to be worsened by new post-Brexit checks on EU imports from Wednesday onwards – will hit Londoners’ pockets.

Khan’s ‘Grow London Local’ initiative, which has been in a ‘pilot’ phase since November last year, is expanding to cover all boroughs by the end of February. The scheme is intended to serve as a “one-stop-shop for small business support” and was officially launched on Tuesday morning.

The mayor told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I’ve set aside almost £9m for Grow London Local. The idea is for business support managers to go directly to small businesses.

“We have, roughly speaking, a million small businesses in our city. They employ more than three million people. More than half of Londoners are employed by a small business.

“But often, when you speak to somebody who’s set up a small business, they do it in their bedroom – they make their stuff in their bedroom or their garage or their kitchen.

“They’ve not got the expertise or the contacts about how to access finance, how to market, how to use social media, how to develop their business. So we want to support small businesses to grow, develop and thrive.”

According to City Hall, 811 small businesses have already received support both online or by discussing their businesses’ requirements in person. The mayor’s office hopes the scheme will help a further 12,000 small businesses between now and March 2025.

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Khan promised in his 2021 manifesto to create a “single front door” for small business support, by bringing together various schemes and support packages under a single banner.

The launch comes just one day before new post-Brexit border rules come into force, which are expected to push up food prices in Britain. The government’s modelling says the new controls will cost industry £330m.

The mayor said: “Let me be quite clear. The reason why the cost of food is going up is because of Brexit, the hard Brexit negotiated by the government […] Those who campaigned for Brexit now need to explain why their promises have been broken.

“It breaks my heart to see Londoners who have already had 18 months, two years, worth of the cost of living crisis, [seeing prices] being exacerbated by food going up.”

Commenting on the upcoming rule changes, a government spokesperson told Sky News on Saturday: “We are committed to delivering the most advanced border in the world. The border target operating model is key to delivering this, protecting the UK’s biosecurity from potentially harmful pests and diseases and maintaining trust in our exports.

“We are taking a phased approach – including initially not requiring pre-notification and inspections for EU medium risk fruit and vegetables and other medium risk goods – to support businesses and ensure the efficient trade is maintained between the EU and Great Britain.”

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