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Gloucestershire Business News

Help needed to help businesses through latest restrictions

Small businesses are "seriously fearing for their futures" and need a fresh package of government support measures, according to a leading business organisation.

Federation of Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry was speaking after the announcement of the latest coronavirus restrictions in England by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The new measures include hospitality businesses being forced to close at 10pm, compulsory table service, limited numbers at weddings and a suspension of plans for a return to spectators at sports events.

Government advice has reverted to employees working from home where possible with fresh restrictions also announced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Mr Cherry said: "Many businesses - particularly those at the heart of our night time economy and events industries - are seriously fearing for their futures.

"Having lost the summer, a lot of them would've been pinning their hopes to increased trade in the run-up to Christmas. Their plans are now in disarray.

"While some may've had cash reserves to carry them through the first lockdown, that cash will now be gone."

He continued: "Some of those who've taken on emergency finance will be finding that the initial injection of funds will not be enough to keep them afloat for another two quarters.

"While it's encouraging to see the Government striking a balance between protecting public health and protecting the economy, this fresh round of restrictions will cause significant disruption for thousands of small firms."

The Prime Minister warned the latest restrictions could be in place for six months and made tighter if the rate of coronavirus cases continues to rise.

Mr Cherry said: "We've already suffered from six months of disruption linked to this virus, and small businesses and the self-employed will be dismayed at facing another six months of restrictions.

"As we're hit by a second phase of COVID-19, it's paramount that the Government urgently steps forward with an ambitious second round of support measures to help firms survive.

"The job retention scheme is ending in six weeks and the deadline for bounce back loan applications is rapidly approaching.

"Policymakers now urgently need to map out the support measures that will follow-on from the job retention scheme, cash grants announced earlier this month and emergency finance initiatives."

He continued: "It's important to remember that small firms have already spent thousands on putting safety measures in place but received no funding to support their efforts to do the right thing.

"Equally, a significant proportion of the small business community - not least the newly self-employed and company directors - have received no income support whatsoever. We urgently need to see a rescue package brought forward for those left out."

CBI director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn described the new measures as a "crushing blow for thousands of firms" and said an extension to the furlough scheme belong October and deferring VAT payments was "a no-brainer".

She said "Testing is currently our single biggest weapon against the virus. It's time for a united national push to turbo charge testing capabilities."

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