The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called for urgent support for small firms hit by the delay in fully reopening from lockdown.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement in which he confirmed a four-week delay to the final stage of the unlocking roadmap in England, FSB national chair Mike Cherry said: “So many small businesses will have been waiting for the 21 June with bated breath as their chance to be fully operative without most of the restrictions and closures that have dogged us for much of the past 15 months.
“But despite a successful vaccine programme and all the best efforts from small firms, they will be bitterly disappointed to find they face at least another month of restrictions.
“For many people, it probably feels like life has been getting back to normal. But take a moment to remember that some small businesses, for example nightclubs, have remained closed throughout the entirety of the pandemic. They have gone 15 months without income, all the while doing their best to support their staff, and they have now had their hopes of reopening on June 21 dashed. These sectors, and their supply chains, need ambitious and targeted support.”
“It is fully understandable that as this pandemic evolves, the goalposts too will move, but many small firms who have been hanging onto the edge will be left wondering if they can survive further periods of restrictions without additional support. Previous local lockdowns were confusing and did not work, so we are glad to see that we are not facing a return to these today.
“The July 19 must be the final date for when these restrictions will be lifted, it’s crucial that we also understand the impact that these delays have on livelihoods as well as mental health.
“The decision to ease restrictions for weddings will come as a welcome announcement for those involved, especially suppliers, venues and organisers who have seen the sector decimated over the past 15 months.
“But in all our talks with the Government during this crisis, we’ve made it clear that support must be proportionate to the restrictions in place. These business support measures have been critical to saving thousands of businesses and jobs. But we now must push for more, at a time when so many small firms need that helping hand to survive.
“So, for others who remain restricted about how they can operate, these firms need urgent support. The Business Rates 100 per cent relief for the retail, hospitality and leisure sector, which is due to end on the 30 June should be extended beyond this next set of restrictions.
“Employer contribution changes that are due to take hold on the 1 July should be delayed until all restrictions have eased, thereby minimising the immense financial burden that small firms are facing.
“Many who have been unable to open are now faced with paying back their Bounce Back Loans. Government should consider writing off spent covid loans for the most restricted firms.
“Small firms need support now, they understand the need to take a cautious approach out of lockdown, but not at the sacrifice of businesses, jobs and livelihoods. So, the Government must act to prevent further economic casualties.”