Business leaders say new lockdown support grants are not enough
Support grants worth up to £9,000 will not be enough to help many firms in England survive the latest Covid lockdown, business leaders have told chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The government’s latest £4.6 billion business support package announced Tuesday is expected to help hundreds of thousands of companies survive the new national lockdown, which is expected to last at least until mid-February.
The enforced closures in non-essential retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will see businesses receive a one-off cash sum with the amount provided depending on the commercial property value for business rates purposes.
Those with a rateable value of £15,000 or less will receive £4,000 per property; a rateable value of £15,000-£51,000 will receive a £6,000 grant; and those with a value of more than £51,000 are eligible for £9,000. Firms will not have to pay the grant money back.
Although business groups in England welcomed the new help as a good start, some warned the money still wouldn't be enough to save many firms from failure.
Craig Beaumont, chief of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, told the BBC that although latest emergency package was a “good first step”, it wasn’t comprehensive enough.
“The support doesn’t yet match the challenge posed by this stage of the crisis. We need a spring economy plan to help businesses through to the point where the vaccine means restrictions can be eased”, he said.
Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, also said: “Support must be sufficient to cover not just those on the front line of retail, hospitality and leisure, but also firms in supply chains and wider business communities also feeling the impacts of these restrictions”.
Business groups also said they now need a clear long-term plan. They want to know that current levels of support will stay in place until most of the population is vaccinated.
Property giant Colliers International on Wednesday also warned the government that it must reveal its business rates strategy after support ends in March.
“The government really can’t leave it any longer before it spells out its proposals for business rates for the beleaguered Retail and Hospitality sectors post April 1”, said John Webber, head of Business Rates at Colliers International. “And at the very least it should extend the current business rates holiday for another six months.
Chancellor Sunak said he would consider whether or how to extend support packages in its Budget on 3 March. "The Budget early in March is an excellent opportunity to take stock of the range of support we have put in place and set out the next stage of our economic response", he said.
England's lockdown rules are due to be reviewed on 15 February while Scotland's will be reviewed at the end of January.
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