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Gloucestershire Business News

Coronavirus Lockdown: "The nightmare before Christmas"

England will start adjusting to a fresh round of tougher coronavirus lockdown restrictions from Thursday as the Government aims to counter the rising number of positive cases.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new measures which will be debated in Parliament before being introduced until December 2.

The announcement means the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which allows employees to be placed on furlough and receive 80 per cent of their wages, will be extended for another month.

The Job Support Scheme - which was due to start yesterday - will be postponed until the furlough scheme has finished.

But how has the announcement gone down with business organisations? collated their reactions.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive, British Retail Consortium

"Retail faces a nightmare before Christmas as the Government proposes to close thousands of retail premises under this new national lockdown, denying customers access to many of their favourites shops and brands.

"It will cause untold damage to the high street in the run up to Christmas, cost countless jobs and permanently set back the recovery of the wider economy, with only a minimal effect on the transmission of the virus.

"The announced closure will have a significant economic impact on the viability of thousands of shops and hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country.

"The previous lockdown cost 'non-essential' shops £1.6billion a week in lost sales; now that we are entering the all-important Christmas shopping period, these losses are certain to be much bigger.

"Government must play its part, providing support to businesses that will be forced to close, otherwise the consequences for local retail will be dire."

Caroline Norbury, chief executive, Creative Industries Federation

"This announcement will have huge ramifications across the creative industries with many organisations in our sector once again needing to close their doors.

"The temporary extension of the furloughing scheme will provide short-term relief for many.

"It remains vital there is parity between those on payroll and the self-employed, including the many who continue to fall through the gaps of government support.

"A third of the creative workforce is freelance and many will see all of their work cancelled as a result of these new measures. They cannot be expected to live on 40 per cent of their income or less, while colleagues on payroll receive 80 per cent.

"The suspension of the Universal Credit minimum income floor must also be extended beyond November as more and more creative practitioners turn to that means of support as a vital lifeline."

Sam Holliday, Gloucestershire development manager, Federation of Small Businesses

"The announcement on Saturday, although probably inevitable, will still have been a body blow to many small businesses, many of whom were only just starting to get back on their feet after the previous lengthy lockdown.

"There will be a genuine concern that some businesses simply won't be able to cope with this new break and so it is important the Government shows the same commitment it did in March to try to keep as many of our businesses alive during this most testing period.

"We are still waiting for full details of what support will be available and that could be critical to how we get through this. 

"FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said at the weekend he hoped the Government would create more support schemes based on three key principles - "to be as generous as possible, to as many as possible and as swift as possible". 

"Let us hope they are listening because many great small businesses in Gloucestershire and beyond are really in the 'last chance saloon' and urgently need help to survive."

Phil Smith, managing director, Business West

"The facts are clear - something different is required if this virus isn't going to overrun the country.

"The impact of a month's restrictions on businesses will ripple throughout the economy and will be shattering for those forced to close.

"Many companies have worked hard to make their workplaces and services Covid-safe. So, as necessary as this seems to be, it will be a bitter disappointment to all and ruinous for some.

"The furlough extension is welcomed and the Chamber network has been pressing for this.

"Business costs are not just limited to employees' wages. Rents, rates, taxes and leases etc. all keep coming - even if your sales are down or stopped altogether and we are looking for the Chancellor to provide additional financial support to businesses."

Ian Mean, Gloucestershire director, Business West

"Business in Gloucestershire will be left reeling by Boris Johnson's announcement England will go into a national lockdown for a month from Thursday.

"Here in the South West, the virus figures have been relatively low compared with the rest of the country but we have been warned that our hospitals could soon reach their capacity through Covid.

"The big dilemma - as ever with this pandemic - was the unenviable decision: livelihoods or lives.

"The escalating figures of the virus infections doubling every week meant the Prime Minister was forced into what could only be assumed to have been a somewhat humiliating U-turn in ordering our second national lockdown until December 2.

"What is certain is that the government must really get hold of its communications on Covid. They have been something of a shambles and business must kept in the picture properly."

Kate Nicholls, chief executive, UKHospitality

"Public health objectives are, rightly, the motive for the new measures and for that reason we entirely support whatever proportionate action is necessary.

"The costs to hospitality businesses of a second lockdown will be even heavier than the first, coming after periods of forced closure, the accumulation of mass debt and significantly lower trading due to the restrictions of recent weeks.

"The sector was hit hardest and first, and this recent shutdown will hurt for months and years to come.

"If hospitality, the sector that is our country's third largest employer, is to survive and help drive economic recovery, it will need equivalent - or more - support than that of the first lockdown.

"Hospitality businesses have already been pushed to the limits. For those that have survived, viability is on a knife edge, as is the future of the tens of thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on hospitality, including through its supply chain, right across the country.

"It is critical that businesses are given a lifeline to survive the winter, before being given the support to enter a revival phase in 2021, as the nation's prospects improve."

Emma McClarkin, chief executive, British Beer & Pub Association

"As a sector, we are devastated to have to close our pubs and are fearful for their future, but we recognise the situation and that the spread of Covid-19 is serious.

"Make no mistake, this could be the final straw for thousands of pubs and brewers. It will also create major disruption to our supply chain partners whose businesses are now also at severe risk.

"The level of financial support will need to be same, if not greater, than that provided for the first lockdown earlier this year.

"This means grants for all pubs sufficient to cover ongoing fixed costs, and compensation grants for Britain's brewers who will also be permanently devastated by the lockdown.

"A clear, early signal on an economic stimulus package from April next year is a vital element of this. This includes extending the business rates holiday and the hospitality VAT cut, and support on beer duty."

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director general, CBI

"With the right support, firms will do everything possible to minimise the damage. Across the country they have already shown how resilient they can be in the face of tighter restrictions.

"And thanks to huge efforts by businesses to make workplaces Covid secure, more of the economy can now stay open.

"Extending furlough is a vital step. It will bring instant relief and protect jobs. It's also a breakthrough to hear government support for rapid mass testing. Affordable fast tests are a game-changer for business, enabling more firms to stay open and operate normally.

"Some sectors may need more tailored support in the coming weeks.

"It's also clear that communication needs to improve. Firms can't plan on the basis of speculation."

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