July 19th, 2021.

The government should write off £1.7bn worth of Covid loan debt if thousands of small businesses shopkeepers are not going to go to the wall.

Independent high street businesses now owe four times as much as they did a year ago, with firms owing a total of £1.7bn, said Bill Grimsey, ex-boss of supermarket chain Iceland and DIY chains Wickes and Focus DIY.

According to Grimsey, small shops have survived the pandemic by borrowing, but are now faced with the task of paying it back. He called for a government “forgiveness scheme” to write off taxpayer-backed loans for viable small businesses.

Unless the government steps in, the UK could face a “tsunami” of shop closures this autumn, the veteran retail boss said.

Grimsey pointed out that France is working on ways to help its small businesses get out from under the mountain of Covid debt.

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