The coronavirus crisis has hit our community hard. The pandemic is – first and foremost – a public health emergency. But it has also had a real impact on local businesses and local jobs.
Lewisham has one of the highest proportion of small businesses in the capital. The thousands of independent small businesses in the borough are vital for our local economy.
But we know that many local businesses have really been struggling over the last few months as a result of the pandemic, and the lockdowns and restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus. Many local businesses have been forced to close, and the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits has increased by 137% since March.
Despite massive government cuts to our funding, Lewisham Council has stepped in to help businesses through the crisis. Over the last few months, we have provided nearly 4,000 businesses with emergency grants worth over £43m.
But we can all play our part in supporting local businesses and protecting local jobs.
This Saturday marks Small Business Saturday. This is a national campaign which recognises the importance of small businesses to local economies and local communities, and which encourages people to shop local. It comes just days after many businesses were able to re-open for the first time in a month.
Lewisham Council will mark Small Business Saturday by launching a campaign calling on people to ‘Shop Safe, Shop Local’ in order to protect local businesses and safeguard local jobs.
Over the next few weeks, in the run up to the crucial Christmas period we will be encouraging local residents to shop at local businesses where they can. Rather than travelling across London to large and crowded shopping centres, we are encouraging residents to shop at some of the fantastic businesses on their local high street and town centre. Rather than buying your Christmas presents from tax-dodging online retailers, we are encouraging residents to support local businesses, which will help create jobs locally and keep the wealth within our community.
Local businesses have been working hard make their premises COVID-secure, and to ensure that both customers and staff are protected. So when you visit, please remember to wear a mask and to keep your social distance.
On Small Business Saturday, and in the coming weeks, let’s all do our bit to support local businesses. Let’s shop safe, and shop local.
Cllr Joe Dromey is Lewisham Council cabinet lead for employment and skills