Covid: Businesses ‘need more certainty’ in new lockdown

Businesses have welcomed government cash to help them through the lockdown, but are calling for more certainty about how long it will last.

While support has been offered in the form of £9,000 grants, many firms and their owners are working out how to survive the latest lockdown.

Sandy Needham, of West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said being able to plan ahead was crucial.

“People want to know where they stand, and what the support is,” she said.

Mrs Needham said some in the hospitality sector have told her that planning to open before Easter would not be worthwhile.

Business leaders on the Yorkshire coast, however, are hoping to be able to open earlier, to ready themselves for the peak season.

John Senior, chairman of South Bay Traders’ Association in Scarborough, said parts of the resort had enjoyed a “reasonably buoyant summer” due to day trippers and holidays in the summer.

He said hospitality businesses should be able to survive until Easter, but if they were not able to open in time for that then they would be in “serious trouble”.

Mr Senior, himself a restaurant owner said, people needed time to regain confidence in going out in time for the peak season.

Speaking in favour of the grants announced by the Treasury, James Gaston, general manager of Harrogate Sports and Fitness Centre, said: “Any money is better than no money and the £9,000 will definitely help us.

He said the government needed to do more to consider people’s mental health.

“We should be encouraging people to stay active and healthy and we have facilities to be able to provide outdoor exercise which would be hugely beneficial for people,” he said.

“The government should be trying to get places like that open as soon as possible to help promote physical health and wellbeing.”

‘Quietly optimistic’

Nicola Craggs, owner of Barnsley Bowl, said she felt “more positive about the future” since the grants were announced.

“I’m hoping that when we do reopen that we will be busy as families will be desperate to get out,” she said.

“As long as the financial support continues to stay in place, then I’m feeling quietly optimistic about our long-term future

Advice ‘came too late’

Although the grants will undoubtedly help, some feel the decision to go into a third lockdown came too late.

Becky Palfery, of independent Leeds shop and gallery Colours May Vary, said they had already decided to switch to online orders only before Boris Johnson made his announcement.

“By the middle of yesterday I had had enough, I wasn’t happy and had already decided to close and go to click and collect,” she said.

“They were waiting until there was no other decision to be made.”

Ms Palfery said she was happy with the support offered by Leeds City Council, but that government advice had come “perhaps a week-and-a-half too late.”

National lockdown measures were imposed from midnight on Monday, after the UK reported a record 58,784 Covid-19 cases, as well as a further 407 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke after UK chief medical officers recommended the Covid threat be increased to five – its highest level.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday the PM had acted “decisively” and “in the face of new information”.

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