Shops, gyms, restaurants and pubs have called for the Government to split the cost of unpaid rent with commercial landlords.
The Property Bounceback Grant would cost an estimated £2bn, yet it would save 375,000 jobs and more than pay for itself nearly fourfold in the first year alone.
Analysis commissioned by the trade bodies found that if Government support covered 50 per cent of unpaid rents across the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors for only six months, it would cost £1.75bn.
However, the total return to the Treasury in terms of tax revenue from economic activity would be almost £7bn, and 375,000 jobs would be saved – a return on investment of nearly 400 per cent.
Without financial support from the Government, warn the trade bodies, both tenants and landlords face the very real risk of business failure, hundreds of thousands of job losses, and long-lasting damage to high streets across the UK.
Retail footfall has been particularly bad in central London, down 73 per cent in early July, according to Springboard. The UK average in July was 52 per cent lower than last year.
People are also nervous about returning to gyms post Covid, while restaurants worry that any custom will evaporate once the Government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme ends in a fortnight.
According to Remit Consulting, landlords were still owed 37 per cent of quarterly rent due on June 26 by early August, with similarly low collection rates for the previous quarter.
It would be tempting to caricature landlords as grasping figures in top hats and monocles but many commercial leases are owned by pension funds, which in turn will ultimately fund the retirements of key workers such as NHS staff.
In a joint statement, the British Property Federation, British Retail Consortium, UK Hospitality, ukactive and Revo said: “Without urgent action on rents, many otherwise viable businesses are, through no fault of their own, at imminent risk of failure.
“Where both landlord and tenant are able to cover at least 50 per cent of the rent owed, and are able to demonstrate they are working together as economic partners, Government should have the confidence to invest in these businesses’ futures and prevent the needless loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.”