By Grainne Cuffe, BBC local democracy reporter
Lambeth Council will be giving support grants directly to businesses from Wednesday (March 25), its leader has announced.
The grants of either £10,000 or £25,000, to be handed out before Government funding materialises, are part of a £1.2 million scheme to help Lambeth businesses and workers struggling amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
As he announced the plans, leader Councillor Jack Hopkins urged residents to stick to the restrictions imposed by the Government on Monday.
“The message could not be more stark or more important – stay at home and save lives,” he said.
Last week, Lambeth Council announced measures it was taking amid the outbreak, which included treating all agency staff as permanent by offering sick and isolation pay, and banning all evictions for council tenants regardless of whether they were rent-related.
On Wednesday it launched a helpline where vulnerable people can find out about food and medicine delivery, welfare, Covid-19, and organisations that can help.
As part of a support package for businesses and workers, Lambeth is offering rent relief for 220 voluntary and community organisations, and businesses that rent council properties and “are most impacted by the crisis”, such as hairdressers, cafes, restaurants, beauty salons and non-food retailers.
From Wednesday the council will be giving the Government grants of £10,000 or £25,000 directly to businesses who receive Small Business Rate Relief or are in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors.
“There is no need to apply for this and those who are eligible will be contacted directly.
“The business rate relief support announced by Government is being applied to accounts automatically.
“This includes 100 per cent business rate relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses for 2020/21,” Cllr Hopkins said.
The council will freeze commercial waste charges for any pub, club or restaurant that requests it.
“This is a package that will invest over £1.2 million in local businesses and voluntary groups, providing a lifeline to many in these difficult times and ensuring our thriving business and voluntary sectors can bounce back when this crisis recedes.
“The council is mobilising all its resources to deliver essential services.
“This has meant reducing some services in line with government advice, including closing our customer service centre, libraries and leisure centres, and redeploying staff to other areas.
“However, as well as the action I have set out, we are looking at all the services we offer and at what more we can do to help residents, as well as listening to feedback directly from you,” Cllr Hopkins added.
He said as a result the council is expanding its emergency support scheme for those at immediate risk of financial hardship, with an extra £500,000 for emergency financial support for Lambeth residents.
Lambeth will not bring action against people for council tax or rent arrears during the pandemic but urged people to pay if they can.
The council broadened the scope for those eligible for its Crowdfunding platform, which now includes foodbanks, and said it was introducing free parking for NHS and social care staff.
Cllr Jacqui Dyer, cabinet member for jobs, skills and community safety at Lambeth, also added her signature to a cross-party letter to lobby the Government for more income support for self-employed people.
“Taken together, I hope these actions reassure you that Lambeth council is on your side and is doing everything possible to support people through this time of national crisis.
“This is a fast-moving situation, with constant discussions with our partners and local groups, emergency planning and changing government guidance several times a day.
“Please bear with us and do your part in this time of crisis.
“I am confident that Lambeth can pull together to see this out but it relies on us all playing our part,” Cllr Hopkins said.