// Landlords must have “productive” talks with retailers to help protect high streets, MPs hear
// Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said “urgent” dialogue or mediation over rent arrangements and beyond
Landlords must have “productive” talks with retailers and other businesses over rent arrangements and beyond to help protect high streets, according to the government.
During a sitting in the House of Commons yesterday, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said “urgent” dialogue or mediation must be taking place between the two parties.
MPs also heard that it was not in the interests of landlords to lose viable businesses as the country prepares to lift lockdown restrictions.
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Speaking in the Commons, Conservative MP for Sevenoaks Laura Trott said: “The last year has been incredibly difficult for businesses on the high street across Sevenoaks and Swanley, but whilst some landlords have shared that burden, others have not.
“What more can the government do to encourage landlords to adjust rents where businesses have lost significant trade or, indeed, have been unable to trade?”
Jenrick replied: “What is required now, if it hasn’t happened already, are very urgent conversations – or mediation, if that is necessary – between landlords and their tenants to ensure that, where they can pay, they obviously do so – and we expect that to happen.
“But where they can’t pay, that sensible, pragmatic arrangements are put in place.
“It is not in the interests of good landlords to lose viable businesses at this moment and we strongly encourage landlords, if they haven’t already, to have those productive conversations as quickly as they can.”
For Labour, shadow communities secretary Steve Reed questioned how much money areas will receive under the Levelling Up Fund.
“Now high streets need support to help them recover,” he told the Commons.
“So will the Secretary of State guarantee that the funding all areas receive under the Levelling Up Fund will be at least as much as they received under their local growth deal?”
Jenrick replied: “Of course, we will keep on supporting small businesses on the high street, the Chancellor has done that very successfully over the course of this year in difficult circumstances with the business rates holiday, with the cut in VAT, with the support for business grants.
“And we are going to be doing more, as (Reed) says, with the £4 billion Levelling Up Fund which builds on the success of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund.
“That will ensure that communities across the country, but particularly those which are furthest away from the labour market, have the highest levels of deprivation and have not seen the levels of government investment that we would wish hitherto get the funding they need to move forward into the year.”
Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park Sarah Olney asked what provisions will be made to local authorities so people who are evicted from their homes can be supported.
Jenrick responded: “Well, my right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor (Robert Buckland) and I are working to consider what further steps are necessary.”
He added: “It’s important that we keep in place measures that protect the most vulnerable in society, including those who are renting.
“That’s exactly what we’ve done since the beginning of the pandemic and I intend to keep doing so for as long as is necessary.”
with PA Wires