Traders crippled by last month's Birmingham tornado should be allowed to defer tax and national insurance payments until they are fully open again, business leaders in the city demanded yesterday.
The Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry is urging the Government to treat sympathetically scores of small shops and restaurants in Moseley, Balsall Heath, Sparkbrook and Sparkhill affected by the 130-mph whirlwind that tore through the area on July 28.
Some businesses remain closed while others have been forced to scale down production.
BCI chief executive Sue Battle has written to the Prime Minister asking him to provide similar assistance to that given to firms in the MG Rover supply chain following the car giant's collapse earlier this year.
Mrs Battle praised the "good work" being undertaken by both the public and private sector to help those affected.
But she said the Government could make a real difference to local firms by deferring VAT, PAYE and National Insurance payments and easing cash flow pressures.
Mrs Battle said: "We are aware of a number of cases where businesses with insurance are suffering because of their inability to meet customer orders due to a lack of production capability caused by the tornado damage.
"The city council are playing their part and the payment of rates has been deferred for some businesses for which cash-flow issues are pressing."
She said deferral of such payments had been a great help to MG Rover suppliers, adding: "I am certain that a similar gesture for those businesses disrupted by the tornado would be of equal value.
"Birmingham Chamber is also calling upon banks and other lenders to apply their lending policies sympathetically in the coming few months, to also ease the pressure on cash flow." The Chamber's plea came as the city council said it could face a £5 million repair bill as a result of the tornado.
Ken Hardeman, cabinet member for regeneration, said it was doubtful whether the council would receive any compensation.
Under the Government's Bellwin formula, the council must cover the first £2.9 million of repairing storm damage.
It can then claim up to 85 per cent of remaining expenditure, but only covering work completed within two months of the tornado.
Coun Hardeman ( Con Brandwood) said the council would seek to recover the cost of making houses and businesses safe by claiming against insurance in cases where properties were insured.
"We are entitled to make a claim for any emergency work we have done in relation to securing properties and making them weatherproof," he added.
Figures from the Association of British Insurers estimate the damage caused to buildings was £25 million.
Martin Mullaney, a councillor for Moseley and Kings Heath, believes the final bill for the council will be closer to £10 million.
Coun Mullaney (Lib Dem) said: "The Ladypool Road school has been completely wrecked and will cost about £3 million to repair.
"But the really big problems are in Balsall Heath where many houses and small businesses were not insured. People are financially crippled.
"It is particularly difficult for many traders because August is traditionally the favourite month for weddings among the Asian community."