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Chloe Shakesby

"An appalling misjudgement": Industry leaders react to post-lockdown restrictions

The government has today announced its plans for the UK after the current lockdown ends on 2 December.

In this afternoon’s announcement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that the UK will return to a three tiered system of restrictions, with some aspects increased.

In Tier 3 areas, all hospitality venues must be closed, and in Tier 2, alcohol may only be served with “substantial meals”.

However, rules for the Christmas period are yet to be confirmed.

Business leaders from across the UK commented on the announcement.

Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)

“Many small firms across England will be breathing a sigh of relief to hear that they’ll be able to reopen their doors once again after the second national lockdown.

“However many will continue to remain anxious as businesses await to discover what tier they will be placed in and the impact that will have on their trading.

“These have been trying and difficult times for so many, and with the festive season upon us it’s never been more important to see trading resume once again.

“As a result of the Covid crisis, many are carrying excessive levels of debt and uncertainty into the New Year and, with a vaccine on the horizon, will be relying on a Christmas uplift to help them survive through the remainder of the pandemic and beyond.

“We are grateful for those that have held back their Christmas shopping until this moment to support their local shops which means that, for the small business sector, Christmas shopping can finally begin.

“It is important the threat of suspending Sunday Trading laws is also parked, which would take trade away from small businesses to large supermarkets that have already benefited from the November lockdown of their competition.

“For many small businesses the next few weeks should be the busiest period of the entire year, but city centres, towns and high streets have seen footfall collapse, and it’s vital that there is a clear path for recovery.

“So that’s why for whichever tier a small business is placed under, the Government should match this with a strong, proportionate level of support.

“The announced end of the 10pm curfew will be a welcome one for those especially in the food and drink sector, who traditionally would be seeing their profits soar over the Christmas period. It made no sense to close these safe, well-regulated environments and create crowds of people on the street and on public transport.

“For all small firms, they’ll want to know that any restrictions imposed upon them, reflect the advice and data from SAGE in highlighting exactly where and how the highest risk areas are across society.

“Pubs and bars who have kitchens and Christmas menus to offer will also welcome these new rules, but those who predominantly serve drinks may well be forced to make difficult decisions about their futures without the right levels of support.

“Those pubs forced to serve takeaways and click and collect meals in the strongest tiers will be hard hit by these measures and will struggle to make it through to the New Year, these firms in particular will need targeted support.

“Hairdressers and salons too, who have worked hard to ensure they are Covid-safe will be pleased to be able to remain open and continue trading after what has been a tumultuous year for them.

“We know based on the evidence that these locations were not major transmission sites for the virus, so salons, barbers and hairdressers should be able to enjoy a strong December.

“The upcoming Spending Review from the Chancellor will be a crucial moment for him to reiterate his support for all small firms across the board.

“Not only is it vital to see help given to those who have seen trading fall through the floor, but also those who are yet to receive any support whatsoever.

“The newly self-employed and company directors have been left with little or no help from the government, and that has to change urgently.

“Which is why we’ve called for, in a joint letter, a Directors Income Support Scheme which would finally address the shortcomings that these individuals have faced, at a time when they still need to provide for their families.

“And with so many jobs already lost to this pandemic, the Government must act in other ways to get people back into work and fire up the economy once again.

“At the very least, the first step is for the Government to make clear the future of the Jobs Retention Bonus, the cancellation of which has undermined confidence the administration has hoped to deliver.

“It’s impossible to save jobs without saving businesses, which is why we need to see an increase to the level of support provided in grants, which aren’t even covering rent let alone the myriad of other fixed costs businesses face.

“Small businesses are absolutely at the heart of our communities, and we rely on them more than ever. Which is why we need to ensure that they have the right support in place during what should normally be a busy, successful and joyous festive period.”

Adam Marshall, BCC

“It is helpful that the Prime Minister has heeded our call to give businesses at least a week’s notice of the rule changes that will affect firms across England from December 2nd.

“Businesses across England now need to see the detail - and will judge the latest set of Covid rules on whether they are easy to understand and based on clear, transparently-presented evidence.

“They need to know that the new rules will be accompanied by commensurate support, by a significant expansion of mass testing, particularly to workplaces across the country, and by a plan to get the economy fully open again.

“The reduction of time in quarantine for international passengers will help to re-establish connections to key markets and trade partners across the world, helping businesses that depend on the UK’s connectivity and preserving industries and livelihoods.

“Ministers can’t simply keep switching businesses on and off like a light switch without expecting severe consequences. Covid-secure businesses will be looking to the government for a plan that keeps them, and the economy, open throughout winter and beyond.”

Michael Kill, Night Time Industries Association (NITA)

“The industry has been left angry and frustrated by the new restrictions set out by the Prime Minister today. This shows a complete lack of consideration and understanding of our sector.

“This will have a catastrophic impact on thousands of businesses and jobs across the sector by the end of the year. For many business owners this is beyond ignorance. This is tantamount to systematically culling our industry with intent.”

“The government has simply got this wrong. It is an appalling misjudgment.

“Our sector has worked incredibly hard alongside government departments, to ensure that our businesses are ‘Covid Safe’, only to be hit again with unworkable restrictions that have no evidence base.

“We are being condemned to an excruciating financial hardship, until the government can rally around a workable vaccine solution.”

“The Support from furlough is welcome. However, sadly many of these businesses will not survive to retain their staff and will suffer from a continuation of current extreme problems around cash fluidity, commercial rent debt and exit strategy.”

“We can’t help but feel that our industry is being sacrificed for other sectors to open during the festive period.”’

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