Press Releases

London’s small businesses come together to demand affordable rents

230 small businesses call on London politicians to join them in confronting the capital’s affordable workspace crisis

  • 230 small businesses call on London politicians to join them in confronting the capital’s affordable workspace crisis
  • Members of the East End Trades Guild will meet the Hackney and Tower Hamlets mayors on Tuesday and ask them to commit to their agenda

More than 200 small business owners are coming together to demand that local politicians recognise London’s workspace crisis and commit to stopping independent businesses being driven out of the capital.

Research by the East End Trades Guild (EETG) and the New Economics Foundation has uncovered shocking stories of business owners forced out of their premises because of spiralling rents. These include:

  • A suicide in Haggerston triggered by a 200% rent increase
  • A nursery in Hackney with 100 children on its waiting list because it cannot find affordable space
  • A Bethnal Green family business facing eviction or paying a 275% rate hike
  • A stationery manufacturer who left Hackney after 150 years for Woodford
  • A furniture maker who left Hackney after 20 years for Essex

London’s workspace crisis represents a serious threat to the vital diversity of the capital’s economic eco-system through the loss of jobs, services and revenues. In response the East End Trades Guild is launching an Affordable Workspace Manifesto for a London Working Rent.

The manifesto calls on councils across the capital to:

  1. Recognise Community Value of small and micro business to boroughs’ prosperity and reflect this in economic and planning policy decisions
  2. Identify at least one Empty Asset in their borough and convert into affordable workspace before the end of 2018
  3. Create a Small Business Community Land Trust to support small and micro businesses in perpetuity
  4. Create a Register of Landlords to allow small businesses to compare rents
  5. Support the development of an Affordable Rent Formula for small and micro businesses

The EETG, representing 230 businesses, is presenting its Manifesto on Tuesday 13th March to the mayors of Hackney and Tower Hamlets to coincide with the local election campaigns, and urging them to make it part of their agendas.

Date: Tuesday 13th March
Time: 10.30am – 12pm
Place: Genesis Cinema, 93 – 95 Mile End Road, London E1 4UJ

EETG founder Krissie Nicholson said:

The workspace crisis in London is as urgent and serious as the housing crisis. If adopted by the next leaders of local government in the local elections, our five proposals will help to provide viable and sustainable solutions.”

Frances Northrop, Director of Communities at the New Economics Foundation, said:

Imagine London without the small businesses of Portobello Road, Brick Lane, Columbia Road and China Town. These enterprises are the beating heart of our communities, but they’re being driven out of the capital by the cold logic of ever-increasing rents.

It’s time to do something about it. The businesses of the East End Trades Guild are an inspiring example of what can happen when people get together to defend what they love about where they live.”

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said:

I’m delighted to attend the Accountability Assembly organised by the East End Trades Guild. Since my election as Mayor of Tower Hamlets, I’ve strived to make Tower Hamlets a positive place for businesses and to support local residents into employment.

The East End Trades Guild does great work, particularly in promoting and representing the small businesses which add so much to our local economy, and I’m very happy to be at the Assembly to be held accountable and to discuss what else we can do to support employment and employers in Tower Hamlets.”

Rosie Wolfenden MBE, Tatty Devine co-founder and managing director, said:

This campaign is really important and closely linked to the London Living Wage. If it can be established what a person needs to earn to live in London, it must be possible to establish what a small business can afford to pay in rents and rate. By coming together and supporting the manifesto for affordable workspace, small businesses are finding a collective voice, something which is not always easy as an independent business owner. We can raise awareness of the issue with the public and the London councils.

Increases in rent and rates bears no relation to what you can charge for products. If we were to inflate our prices to match the rent and rate rises we would go out of business. The rent in our Brick Lane shop, where we first opened nearly 20 years ago, has quadrupled in that time. It was affordable then, which is why we were able to open. Today the business incorporates retail, wholesale and e‑commerce. We could not operate as a stand-alone shop. If we were starting the business today, I don’t think we could have done so in the same location.

Uncontrolled rent and rate rises will mean many businesses face insolvency and creative business will not open. They also impact owners’ ability to pay staff. I would rather pay my staff more than business rates.”

Len Maloney, who runs JC Motors, said:

If landlords are allowed to set whatever rent they like, businesses will close and communities will suffer. Young local people need to have a way into the workforce and, in my experience, small businesses are better at offering this than big companies. We open doors.

Business owners need to come together to fight this injustice. We do not need to suffer in silence. It helps to realise other business owners are going through the same thing. Together we are stronger.”

The EETG, founded in 2012 and representing 230 businesses with a combined turnover of more than £80m, is asking small businesses all across the capital to join them in their fight for working rents and support their Affordable Workspace Manifesto.

The New Economics Foundation is the UK’s only people-powered think tank. The Foundation works to build a new economy where people really take control.

For more details and stories of business affected by these issues, or for a copy of the manifesto as well as interviews with the EETG founder and leading members ncluding Tatty Devine founder Rosie Wolfenden, Paul Gardner of Gardners bags, Robyn Syms of Square Root Soda, and Len Maloney of JC Motors, or to attend the event at Genesis Cinema, contact Will Brett ( /​07979 696 265).

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