Businesses beg for more support as chancellor tightens purse strings
- Credit: Archant/PA
Families with their livelihoods on the line say they have been abandoned by the government as support for businesses has slowly dwindled as lockdown measures drag on.
Rishi Sunak has said that he needs to spend public finances in a way which is “sustainable over time” - admitting he is “sad” he could not save every business “even given how much we’ve thrown at it".
This view has prompted outrage from businesses which say they are receiving a fraction of the support they did during the first lockdown, even though they are now in an even more precarious position after months of interrupted trade.
“Government has been talking throughout this pandemic about the country being at war with the virus. But anyone knows that in battle you don’t retreat to your barracks halfway through an attack – and that is what the chancellor is doing by saying this,” said Mark Kacary of the Norfolk Deli in Hunstanton.
“Rishi Sunak is in a bubble if he thinks now is the time to be thinking about putting the brakes on spending.
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"He’s not living in the real world where people have everything on the line – he can come to the end of his tenure and write books and give speeches, but people in the real world will be left with nothing.
“We’re lucky in that we are an essential shop and we retail online as well, but a lot of people aren’t.
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"It’s entirely understandable that at some stage we’ll have to look at how we pay this back – perhaps in the summer when things looked a bit better we started considering it.
“But we are back to where we were in March if not worse and there’s going to be no businesses to repay the government debt in the form of rates or taxes if we’ve lost them all in the pandemic.”
Andy Wood, Adnams chief executive, said the hospitality sector was “on its knees” with questions swirling about further job losses.
The brewery and pub group, which runs sites such as the Globe Inn at Wells, is trading at around 20pc since the start of the pandemic.
Mr Wood said: “The hospitality sector is on its knees at the moment. It’s on its knees because it was the first in and last out of lockdown number one. Then it was the first thing that got locked down in lockdown two and it hasn’t really come out of lockdown two.
“It’s an important part of the economy. It employs it lots of people and we want it to recover, don’t we?
“Public health is paramount, but then to make sure the business navigates it way through. To make sure we save as many jobs and to save the pubs.
“We haven’t lost a pub yet. But, we have had to say goodbye to about 5pc of our colleagues which is a tragic shame.
“By and large the job cuts have been natural wastage, but there have a couple of compulsory redundancies as well.”
Andrew Mower, the East Anglian development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses revealed that the confidence index of businesses in the region dropped to –41 in Q420 compared -28 in Q3 and -10 in Q2.
He added: “Business confidence in our region was falling even before the latest national lockdown, and if the government wants to stem closures it will need to show some of the ambition it showed last March.
“The new grants for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors are very welcome, but the small business community is much bigger than those three sectors.
“We need to see similarly targeted interventions to support firms in the supply chains and those without commercial premises.
“We also hope the government will consider our proposal for an income support scheme for company directors, and that the next round of payments to the self-employed can be extended to those who started their businesses more recently.
“Without further action now we risk losing businesses that would ultimately be viable, at huge cost to communities and livelihoods.”