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Gloucestershire Business News

Business leaders react to Covid three tier system

Following the prime minister's announcement yesterday (12th October) of a three tier Covid alert system across England, business leaders have had their say on how it will impact business.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: "Businesses strongly support the simplification of Covid rules. Greater clarity and consistency will support the huge efforts firms have already made to keep customers and employees safe.

"Now clear rules are in place, good, open communication is essential. Businesses in the worst-affected areas have too often had to plan on rumour or react last minute, weakening efforts to protect jobs. This can be solved with more collaboration between business, central and local governments. Restoring a sense of national unity is critical for tackling the virus.

"To maintain confidence and compliance, government must show its workings and evidence base for new restrictions. And to help maintain jobs, it should keep financial support under review and in lockstep with the severity of the restrictions.

"Ultimately, mass rapid testing must really ramp up if we're to prevent a second wave from further harming economic growth. Every day counts."

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the system will only work with the right guidance and funding.

National chairman Mike Cherry said: "Small businesses recognise that safety must come first. However, there's no escaping the fact that this new system will mean huge disruption for firms all over England, many of which have borne the brunt of restrictions over the last six months. Small businesses that have spent thousands on safety measures for their premises, and made every effort to follow existing guidelines, will now be told to close. Any further restrictions placed on them should be evidence-led - transparency is a must.

"The tier system will only work if the funding for business support and guidance to accompany it is sufficient, crystal clear and timely. Government at all levels must ensure that the critical measures announced on Friday are easily accessible from day one. The additional £1 billion to bolster the Towns Fund announced today is encouraging to see. These must be seen as a starting point for the evolution of business support measures, not an end point, especially as we head into the crucial festive season.

"Far too many are still excluded from the government's efforts to help business owners - not least company directors and the newly self-employed. A rescue package for these groups is urgently needed.

"We've always said that the delivery of the world-beating test-and-trace system that we were promised months ago is central to getting our small business community firing on all cylinders again. The government is right to extend greater funding and support to strengthen test-and-trace efforts at the local level, and business owners across the country will be looking forward to improvements on this front."

One of the sectors hardest hit by the new announcements is hospitality, and particularly pubs.

Ian Fozard, chairman of the Society of Independent Brewers, said: "Small independent breweries have been running on empty for months and these new local lockdown measures, without proper financial support, will lead to more job losses and further business closures.

"Brewery sales have collapsed because of the uncertainty of further restrictions, as pubs fear they will be closed. While pubs that are legally closed are being offered financial support, this does not seem to apply to small breweries that will lose more than 80 per cent of their sales.

"We need a comprehensive package of support, including the extension of the Job Retention Scheme to breweries before it is too late to save our small independent brewers."

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