NEN Member, Portobello Business Centre rallies for support for businesses affected by the Grenfell Tower fire
Like the whole country, we were shocked and saddened by the Grenfell Tower disaster on 14 June and its continuing ramifications. In the days that followed, when the true scale of the tragedy became apparent, we were heartened to see the response of the local and wider community as they worked tirelessly to provide practical support to all those affected.
Just one day after the fire, we were contacted by one of our members – Portobello Business Centre (PBC) – whose Ladbroke Grove office is located only a mile from Grenfell Tower. Chief Executive Allen Pluck got in touch to highlight the fact that local businesses had also been impacted by the fire, and were also in need of support. Allen shared with us the news that PBC had clients operating businesses out of Grenfell Tower. Very sadly, a few days later Allen confirmed that some of the people they were already working with had lost their lives in the fire, as well as their families. It was also becoming clear that businesses operating within the cordon were facing challenges, and that there was a growing need for immediate, on the ground coordination to help these businesses, as well as the ones that had been based in Grenfell Tower.
We’re very proud of the way that PBC has responded to the situation so far. And while the need for support is far from over, we wanted to share details of what they have achieved so far.
Through conversations with a cross section of businesses impacted by the events at Grenfell Tower, PBC has been made aware of the following issues:
- The number of residents with businesses
- Outstanding bills
- No/limited access to business premises
- Staff being laid off
- No income being generated
- Customer orders/services disrupted or cancelled
- Road closures affecting deliveries
- Uncertainty about future orders/access to premises
- Insurance claim difficulties
In order to overcome these issues, so far, PBC has:
- Established a temporary office at short notice, with desks, computers, Wi-Fi, VOIP phone lines etc to give those businesses affected a physical outlet to work from.
- Pushed for the utilisation of a currently empty office as “meanwhile” space to house displaced businesses within the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.
- Recruited the support of additional advisers – and held discussions with colleagues from across Business for London to line up additional support if and when it is needed.
- Brought the plight of the affected businesses to the attention of various local and central Government departments including RBKC, Greater London Authority and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Department for Communities and Local Government.
- Invited those affected to attend a consultation meeting to share the details of their disruption and difficulties, with the aim of securing a business compensation package.
- Allen Pluck has been invited to be part of on-going discussions as part of an independent panel looking at the wider impact of the fire.
When he first got in touch, Allen asked NEN if we could use our channels to highlight the need for business support. Letters have since been sent to both Margot James MP and the London Mayor. We will continue to offer our support and that of the rest of the network in the coming weeks and months.
With all this in mind we were pleased by the announcement made by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan on 29 June that he intends to establish a new fund to help businesses which have been impacted by recent terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire.
However, it remains a frustration that a wide scale fully coordinated response to properly support the businesses in the area is still be to be put in place. For example, whilst it has been indicated that rent and rates will be suspended there has been no formal announcement about this, leaving business owners unsure how they will meet their obligations.
Allen and his team continue to put additional measures in place to support their clients and the businesses of the area more generally, the most recent being a portal on the PBC website specifically to promote local businesses as a means of encouraging others to use their services and help get them all back on their feet – watch this space as we’ll be promoting that as and when it is fully up and running.