Neil Coyle: Businesses have faced dither and delay since London Bridge attacks

3rd August, 2017 8:30 am

It is two months since the horrific terrorist attack on London Bridge and Borough Market in my constituency. Eight people were brutally murdered that night and scores more injured.

The attack was over quickly, thanks to the almost inconceivable bravery of the police, undoubtedly sparing many more people from being injured or killed. The fantastic  paramedics who provided immediate critical care also saved numerous lives. On the day, and over the past two months, the broader local community has demonstrated the best of British spirit — offering incredible support to the individuals and businesses most affected.

Nevertheless, the eight-minute attack required a significant police investigation resulting in the market and surrounding area being cordoned off for 11 days, costing an estimated £1.4m to traders, restaurants and other local businesses. Firms lost stock and orders, could not access crucial vehicles, lost contracts and have been hit with other costs.

To help cover losses, the Borough Market Support Fund has raised an incredible £100,000 to help the smaller businesses most affected. London mayor Sadiq Khan has also acted and is providing £300,000 to assuage the effects of the three major incidents that hit London this summer. Southwark council has also stepped in to help, providing rates relief worth over £100,000 for businesses affected. Some local companies have also dug deep, with News UK, the FT and Mergermarket collectively giving staff over £50,000 to spend in the area.

Sadly, the government has been missing from the table. The prime minister visited the site to help show her Australian counterpart around as two Australians were killed that night. Margot James, the business minister, also met some of the people affected but the government is yet to provide support, other than to prod insurance providers. Some insurers have behaved wholly unacceptably, dragging their feet and initially denying help outright, despite policies covering business closure. Three firms have been in touch as they fear liquidation if adequate help is not forthcoming.

I met the Association of British Insurers and the government-backed Pool Re insurance, and I have contacted the heads of insurance companies on behalf of local businesses, as well as receiving advice from a terror-insurance specialist. Some payments have now trickled through but the pace is unbearably slow.

There is consensus that the government certification process causes unnecessary delays, but its approach to terrorism insurance is based on an outdated model that is well overdue reform. Provisional IRA attacks targeting infrastructure are what led to the current government system, whilst vehicle, knife and cyber-attacks are not covered at all.

After two months of dither and delay, it is clear that the whole system requires an overhaul to reflect how terrorists attack now. I will keep working for the employees and businesses affected and will press the government to do more. The people whose lives and livelihoods were so adversely effected by the attack simply cannot wait another two months for the assistance that they urgently need.

Theresa May and many ministers have stated that “terrorists will not win” and they certainly won’t beat Londoners’ spirit, but if jobs are lost and firms go under then the government will have failed.

Neil Coyle is MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark.

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