Chancellor’s new COVID support is ‘not enough’

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is offering a new furlough scheme and cash grants to support businesses during COVID-19 lockdowns – but northern leaders say it is not enough. Tony McDonough reports

Metro Mayors
North West Metro Mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram

 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled new measures to support businesses who have to close during new COVID-19 lockdowns.

However, business and politics leaders in Merseyside and across the north of England say the measures will not be enough to stop many businesses, particularly those in hospitality, going bust.

Under the plan announced on Friday afternoon, Mr Sunak said the Government would would pay two-thirds of the wages of workers in businesses that are forced to close. This will be up to a maximum of £2,100 per worker per month. This is at a higher level than the current furlough scheme.

He also offered a grant scheme for businesses that have to close. This is designed to meet fixed costs and is up to a maximum of £3,000 per month. Businesses will only be able to claim the grant while they are subject to lockdown. Furloughed employees must be off work for a minimum of seven days.

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Mr Sunak said: “The expansion of the job support scheme will provide a safety net for businesses across the UK who are required to temporarily close their doors, giving them the right support at the right time.”

However, Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said the measures did not go far enough. He issue a joint statement with three other metro mayors – Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester, Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of North Tyne, and Dan Jarvis, Mayor of Sheffield City Region.

It said: “We are pleased that the Government has listened and recognised that any new system of restrictions must come with a substantial package of financial support. What has been announced by the Chancellor today is a start.

“But, on first look, it would not appear to have gone far enough to prevent genuine hardship, job losses and business failure this winter. Mayors and leaders from across the north will be meeting tomorrow to discuss it in more detail and we will make a further statement then.”

Frank McKenna, chief executive of Liverpool business lobby group, Downtown in Business, has been one of the city’s biggest critics of the Government’s lack of support for businesses. On the latest announcement, he said: “No help for retail, hotels, taxi drivers, bus companies, cultural and visitor attractions – not forced to close by law – but collateral damage if bars and restaurants are shut. As I keep saying, the business ecosystem is what matters.”

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Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, agreed that the measures fall short of what is needed. He added: “The measures from the Chancellor offer some support to businesses that once again through no fault of their own have to close their doors.

“We welcome the support of wages. However, the £3,000 figure will not even cover the rents of some businesses let alone revenue loss and again we fear for the future of our leisure and hospitality which is the fuel of the region.”

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