On Monday evening Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new COVID-19 lockdown for England and now Chancellor Rishi Sunak is to offer new support for retail and hospitality. Tony McDonough reports
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled a new £4.6bn package of support measures for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses as England enters a new COVID-19 lockdown.
He is offering grants worth up to £9,000 per property. This is in addition to the business rates relief and the furlough scheme which has been extended until the end of April. £594m will be set aside for firms outside of this sector.
The new support was welcomed by Frank McKenna, chief executive of Liverpool-based lobby group Downtown in Business. But Mr McKenna added that the Chancellor needed to go much further in supporting businesses through lockdown.
He said: “Pleased that Rishi Sunak is announcing further business support measures today, but he has to look beyond furlough and hospitality sector. Many companies in many sectors now at risk, and the help needs to be more comprehensive.”
Maggie O’Carroll, chief executive of Liverpool social enterprise, The Women’s Organisation, also expressed concern at the gaps in the COVID-19 support that she says have been apparent since the start of the pandemic in March last year.
She added: “We welcome the package of business support announced by the Chancellor… However, once again we are left with tens of thousands of businesses that will not receive any clear benefit from this package. The support requires immediate Government attention to prevent more businesses falling through the gaps.
“The one-off top-up grant of up to £9,000 per property fails to account for businesses which do not pay rates directly to the local authority… We call on the Government to invest more to save and sustain businesses and jobs and it will cost more in the future to create new ones.”
As per the previous COVID-19 grants, the money will be distributed by local authorities. Mr Sunak said: “The new strain of the virus presents us all with a huge challenge – and whilst the vaccine is being rolled out, we have needed to tighten restrictions further. Throughout the pandemic we’ve taken swift action to protect lives and livelihoods and today we’re announcing a further cash injection to support businesses and jobs until the Spring.
“This will help businesses to get through the months ahead – and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new lockdown on Monday evening in an effort to stop the NHS being overwhelmed by COVID cases in the next few weeks. It means most non-essential retailers, personal care businesses and all leisure businesses having to close their doors. The lockdown will be reviewed on February 15.
Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, added: “While this is not the New Year start we all wanted, it is vital now to follow Government guidelines and for all businesses to advise staff to work from home where possible.
“We are also pleased to see this morning’s announcement from the Chancellor for top up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure as well as discretionary funds for other impacted businesses. We still though continue to champion Liverpool business to local and national government and push for ongoing and sustained financial support for all businesses including those falling through the funding gap as well as supply chains and freelancers.
“We continue to urge all businesses to make use of the mass testing programme in Liverpool and are here for all members and businesses to offer help and guidance over the next few months.”