Operating businesses will be given extra financial support to keep staff in employment.
Jane Imrie

Measures need to stand "true test" of "difficult months ahead": Businesses react to Chancellor's extra COVID-19 support

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has today unveiled further measures to support businesses and freelancers as COVID-19 restrictions increase.

Operating businesses will be given extra financial support to keep staff in employment, as well as the expansion of business grant schemes in affected sectors in high-level alert areas.

In additon, grants for the self-employed have been increased to 40 per cent of previous earnings.

Business leaders across the country spoke to Bdaily about the annoucement and the impact this will have in their industries and regions.

Adam Marshall, director general of British Chambers of Commerce (BCC)

“This is a very significant improvement in the support available to businesses struggling with the impact of increasing restrictions across the UK.

“Chambers have been campaigning for greater support for businesses experiencing big falls in demand as a result of new restrictions, and a number of the steps announced today, including the lowering of employer contributions and the number of hours worked needed to qualify for the scheme, respond directly to our calls.

“Backdated grants for hospitality firms in tier two and enhanced grants for the self-employed will go some way to alleviating pressure on many of those who have been particularly vulnerable to the economic impact of the pandemic.

“Chambers have called for support to be truly commensurate with the restrictions imposed on businesses as part of our five tests for Coronavirus measures.

“The true test of these reforms will be whether they help businesses on the ground get through the difficult months ahead.

“Chambers of Commerce will continue to work with the Treasury to ensure that support is responsive and preserves businesses and livelihoods.”

Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor

“Since Middlesbrough and Hartlepool entered local lockdown restrictions earlier this month and more recently the rest of the area, I have been in discussions with government about financial support for businesses, such as our amazing pubs, bars and restaurants, that are affected by lockdown restrictions, but are not required to close by law.

“So, I am pleased that the government has stepped up to the plate and that the Chancellor has outlined a major and generous offer to help firms in Tier 2 areas get through the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Chancellor has delivered unprecedented levels of support during the coronavirus pandemic, most recently his pledging to cover two thirds of an employee’s salary who can’t work because a business is required to close, as well as cash grants for those firms legally required to shut in Tier 3 area.

“He is now going further with a detailed package of financial support to cover businesses in Tier 2 - something firms across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool have been calling for, and I am pleased the Chancellor has listened to their concerns and acted.

“The support given to businesses across the region throughout the pandemic has saved hundreds of small and medium sized companies and thousands of jobs. This fresh support for workers and businesses will save even more.

“I will continue to work with our local leaders to protect the health and well-being of local people and provide local support to protect our economy and the livelihoods of everyone in the Tees Valley.”

Jonathan Walker, director of policy, North East England Chamber of Commerce

“We’ve been clear that previously announced support measures were not sufficient to protect jobs and businesses subject to new restrictions. Therefore, we’re pleased that the Chancellor has listened to us and accepted this argument.

“Government has also recognised that we’ve been under tough restrictions in the North East for many weeks now and the backdating of support will help many struggling businesses. However, we are concerned that significant economic damage has already been done.

“The new support will help going forward, but we still need a bold strategy to ‘level up’ our region to stop Covid from further exacerbating inequalities.

“While we welcome this new financial package, businesses are tired of the constant uncertainty and secrecy surrounding Tier 3 restrictions and negotiations.

“We need sufficient resources locally and an effective test and trace system to tackle Covid outbreaks early, alongside meaningful engagement with the region’s business community.”

Derek Cribb, CEO of IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed)

“It’s welcome that the government has doubled SEISS to 40 per cent of previous income.

“However, there are still deep structural problems with the scheme, which the government must urgently address.

“A third of the self-employed – including sole directors of limited companies and the newly self-employed – are still completely excluded from SEISS (and the proportion is even higher in the hospitality sector).

“This is an enormous omission and it is deeply troubling that the government has not addressed this.

“The gaps in the support have already led to the biggest drop in the number of self-employed on record – over 250,000 since the beginning of the year.

“With large parts of the country locking down again, this is only set to worsen as many forgotten freelancers face financial devastation. Government must act now and open up SEISS or other targeted support to these groups.”

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