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Gloucestershire Business News

Chancellor's plan - The business verdict

A new Jobs Support Scheme - the successor to furlough support - was the headline announcement of Chancellor Rishi Sunak's winter economic announcement.

Yesterday's package, designed to help protect jobs and businesses over the next few months with the cases of coronavirus rising, also included extended deadlines to pay back loans and tax bills plus a delay in ending the reduced VAT for hospitality and tourism.

But what did business leaders make of the announcement? Punchline-Gloucester.com canvassed opinion.

Claire Ralph, Business West policy manager

"The Government's latest intervention to help businesses and the economy endure the next six months' of covid-19 restrictions is likely to be inadequate to stave off widespread unemployment within the South West region, but Business West welcomes extensions to employment support and assistance for business cash flow.

"There is a concern for how useful the Jobs Support Scheme will be for particularly badly affected sectors of our regional economy such as aerospace, the night time economy and cultural and heritage industries.

"The scale of the announcement was very much smaller than those made in July and March, and comes at a time when businesses face unprecedented levels of uncertainty with the end of the transition phase.

"The schemes are welcome, if a bit overdue and we hope it will help some employers and businesses make it through to spring 2021."

James Calder, Society of Independent Brewers chief executive

"Without targeted support for the beer, brewing and broader hospitality industry, which has been specifically targeted by new restrictions, then we will see widespread business closures of breweries and pubs.

"Breweries have not had access to any of the business grants available to other hospitality businesses and to avoid further business closures it essential that a targeted support package is introduced by government.

"Equally, while the extension of the VAT cut for hospitality is welcome for many pubs, it does not apply to beer or alcohol sales so is not available to wet-led community pubs which do not serve food.

"Breweries and wet-led pubs are once again being left behind by the Chancellor's measures and without urgent support many will not survive the vital Christmas period."

Emma McClarkin, British Beer & Pub Association chief executive

"Some elements of the Chancellor's plan tare welcome but do not go nearly far enough to save the thousands of pubs and jobs that we have highlighted are at serious risk.

"The VAT cut extension on food and soft drinks will help our sector and it is great to see the Chancellor answer our urgent call for this. But the extension is only for six weeks and only takes us through to the end of the current restrictions - it needs to be much longer to help our sector recover.

"Furthermore, where those pubs and bars that are not food focused are concerned, the Chancellor has missed a golden opportunity to extend the VAT cut to include alcohol.

"It is very concerning to see the Chancellor not extend the business rates relief for pubs. Pubs now face a cliff edge come March 2021 where they will have to pay on average £25,000 each per rate paying pub.

"We need the Government to recognise that consumer confidence is fragile and the additional restrictions that could be in place for a further six months will only make this worse."

Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive

"It was crucial that the Chancellor delivered support that specifically targeted the hospitality sector which has been hit harder than any.

"The announcement of flexible employee support is a move in the right direction, but hospitality needs more targeted efforts to support jobs.

"We need Government to go further in hospitality, recognising the greater restrictions imposed upon us, and pick up the full cost of unworked hours.

"The Chancellor has given us some reason to be positive again, but we urge him to engage with the trade on specific measures to keep people in work. While some of these measures announced will give businesses a future to shoot for, and hope that they can begin to rebuild, we are still not out of the woods."

Tom Ironside, British Retail Consortium director of business and regulation

"We welcome the Chancellor's Jobs Support Scheme, which will help reduce job losses for eligible companies.

"Furthermore, the VAT reduction for cafes and food-to-go will be welcomed as many continue to suffer as a result of low footfall and the Government's work from home if possible guidance.

"Retail is on a delicate path to recovery, but the looming threat to this remains the £8 billion business rates cliff edge from April 2021.

"Retailers need certainty and the Chancellor must take action and bring down the business rates burden in order to avoid unnecessary job losses and shop closures."

Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses national chairman

"There are many measures to welcome here that will make a real difference. It's particularly encouraging to see that all small businesses will be able to access the new job support scheme without facing excessive paperwork, with a guarantee of help for the next six months.

"We are concerned the Chancellor had nothing to say on support for those who were left out of the first round of support measures, not least the newly self-employed and company directors.

"The Government urgently needs to come forward with an emergency relief package for these groups which have dutifully paid their taxes and deserve help too.

"Equally, local lockdown grants in all four nations should now be extended to firms forced to closed that were counting on reopening in the coming weeks but now face the most difficult of winters.

"The statement is a very welcome and significant step forward, but there must be more to come."

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general

"These bold steps from the Treasury will save hundreds of thousands of viable jobs this winter. It is right to target help on jobs with a future, but can only be part-time while demand remains flat. This is how skills and jobs can be preserved to enable a fast recovery.

"Wage support, tax deferrals and help for the self-employed will reduce the scarring effect of unnecessary job losses as the UK tackles the virus. Further business rates relief should remain on the table.

"Employers will apply the same spirit of creativity, seizing every opportunity to retrain and upskill their workers.

"The Chancellor has listened to evidence from business and unions, acting decisively. It is this spirit of agility and collaboration that will help make 2021 a year of growth and renewal."

Jonathan Geldart, Institute of Directors director general

"These new measures should bring some relief to many directors fearing a harsh winter for their businesses and people.

"As the virus wears on, the Treasury is right to seek a balance between protection and adjustment.

"At first blush it's not yet clear how much the job support scheme will help hard-pressed firms hold on to staff."

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