Eight months on from the tragic events which took place at Grenfell Tower on the evening of 14th June 2017, local businesses are facing a bleak future as further fall-out from the disaster delivers a new blow. Portobello Business Centre (PBC), a Ladbroke Grove-based not-for-profit Enterprise Support Organisation has been engaged in supporting the self-employed people and businesses housed within the tower and the immediate area. Today, they are highlighting what has become a growing, but much overlooked issue, affecting a community which remains in a state of trauma.
The Grenfell Tower fire directly affected over 85 businesses. PBC is providing support to 45 of these and, since June, they have fought hard to draw attention to the plight of the business community. Direct lobbying from PBC and support from their national body, National Enterprise Network, saw the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan provide these businesses with a share of a £300k package of support across the four London tragedies which occurred in 2017. The local authority (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) also provided matched funding to establish a business compensation fund for the short time period immediately after the fire when the businesses were closed.
However, while PBC continues to maintain engagement with the businesses and funding bodies, there is no further agreed support on the horizon. Many of the local businesses are now in severe difficulty or financial distress, with some on the brink of closure. This is due to a number of cumulative factors, including:
- Loss of trade (30 – 70% downturn largely due to reduced footfall) – approximately 1000 people have been removed from the local area (this includes 650 surviving residents from Grenfell Tower and residents from nearby estates as well as 350 students from the local Academy). In addition, a reduction in transitory visitors and visiting business trade deepens the loss of footfall and customers.
- Staff difficulties – business owners and staff who are working in such close proximity to the Tower are suffering from trauma and stress. Recruitment for new staff is proving virtually impossible.
- A community still experiencing trauma – with the on-going police investigation into the disaster, the after effects of the tragedy remain, affecting not just the local residents, but also the wider community.
- Lack of premises – businesses and the self-employed which operated out of Grenfell have been unable to work or without workspace since June 2017.
- Road closures – whilst the Tower remains in place, the area is subjected to unannounced road closure as cranes and similar equipment are moved onto the site. These continue to cause disruption to business deliveries.
PBC have called for Government, the GLA and RBKC to provide longer term infrastructure support to help the affected businesses survive these difficult times for fear that the business community may never recover. A financial moratorium is also being requested from banks and utility companies to halt businesses facing forced closure for outstanding debts.
Allen Pluck, PBC Chief Executive commented: “Existing businesses are in survival mode, but if we can help this community now, we believe we can achieve sustainable and economic well-being in the longer term. There are a number of business who are really struggling.
We’ve been able to reposition some of our own external funding but this only provides limited support for the beleaguered North Kensington business community. So much more needs to be done.
We’re exploring wider community-led partnership developments which look to provide needs analysis and a whole community-wide support process. We believe that change initiatives such as empowering grassroots volunteer groups could result in future community businesses. Providing both support for existing and new businesses will give some much-needed hope for this community. In turn this may generate much needed growth within the area’s economy”.
PBC is also running their own campaign which urges support for these community businesses in three ways:
- Be their customers 2. Give financial support 3. Offer your skills
PBC were awarded National Enterprise Network’s Chairman’s Award in December 2017 in recognition of their “rapid and ongoing response” to the Grenfell Tower disaster. They have become a trusted intermediary between official bodies and the business community and are working closely with local community groups supporting victims, survivors, and relatives, as well as wider North Kensington residents and local community organisations in an attempt to drive an inclusive community wide response.
About Portobello Business Centre
Portobello Business Centre (PBC) is an independent non-profit-making organisation that provides advice, training, counselling, and mentoring services.
PBC are nationally recognised as a leading quality provider of professional Enterprise Support Services and have been providing support and assistance to many hundreds of businesses in the local community and across London for over 25 years.
They exist to help people to start-up, grow, and expand their businesses, to support them in realising their full potential through the provision of affordable, high-quality, independent, and confidential support delivered by an innovative and professional team.
They offer and deliver: one-to-one advice, courses, short courses, seminars, workshops, business consultancy, networking opportunities. They also provide advice on business loans and grants for London-based businesses.
For further information on this press release please contact Allen Pluck, Portobello Business Centre Chief Executive.
Tel: 020 7460 5050