Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons today on the new tier system the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said there will be a sigh of relief that retailers can reopen their doors.
However, Boris Johnson’s new plan for the tier system will leave many businesses “anxious” as they will have to wait until they are told what tier they will be entering into.
National Chair Mike Cherry of the FSB said, “Many small firms across England will be breathing a sigh of relief to hear that they’ll be able to reopen their doors once again after the second national lockdown. However many will continue to remain anxious as businesses await to discover what tier they will be placed in and the impact that will have on their trading.
“These have been trying and difficult times for so many, and with the festive season upon us it’s never been more important to see trading resume once again. As a result of the Covid crisis, many are carrying excessive levels of debt and uncertainty into the New Year and, with a vaccine on the horizon, will be relying on a Christmas uplift to help them survive through the remainder of the pandemic and beyond.
“We are grateful for those that have held back their Christmas shopping until this moment to support their local shops which means that, for the small business sector, Christmas shopping can finally begin.
“It is important the threat of suspending Sunday Trading laws is also parked, which would take trade away from small businesses to large supermarkets that have already benefited from the November lockdown of their competition.
“For many small businesses the next few weeks should be the busiest period of the entire year, but city centres, towns and high streets have seen footfall collapse, and it’s vital that there is a clear path for recovery. So that’s why for whichever tier a small business is placed under, the Government should match this with a strong, proportionate level of support.
“The announced end of the 10pm curfew will be a welcome one for those especially in the food and drink sector, who traditionally would be seeing their profits soar over the Christmas period. It made no sense to close these safe, well-regulated environments and create crowds of people on the street and on public transport.
“For all small firms, they’ll want to know that any restrictions imposed upon them, reflect the advice and data from SAGE in highlighting exactly where and how the highest risk areas are across society.
“Pubs and bars who have kitchens and Christmas menus to offer will also welcome these new rules, but those who predominantly serve drinks may well be forced to make difficult decisions about their futures without the right levels of support. Those pubs forced to serve takeaways and click and collect meals in the strongest tiers will be hard hit by these measures and will struggle to make it through to the New Year, these firms in particular will need targeted support.
“Hairdressers and salons too, who have worked hard to ensure they are Covid-safe will be pleased to be able to remain open and continue trading after what has been a tumultuous year for them. We know based on the evidence that these locations were not major transmission sites for the virus, so salons, barbers and hairdressers should be able to enjoy a strong December.
“The upcoming Spending Review from the Chancellor will be a crucial moment for him to reiterate his support for all small firms across the board. Not only is it vital to see help given to those who have seen trading fall through the floor, but also those who are yet to receive any support whatsoever.
“The newly self-employed and company directors have been left with little or no help from the government, and that has to change urgently. Which is why we’ve called for, in a joint letter, a Directors Income Support Scheme which would finally address the shortcomings that these individuals have faced, at a time when they still need to provide for their families.
“And with so many jobs already lost to this pandemic, the Government must act in other ways to get people back into work and fire up the economy once again. At the very least, the first step is for the Government to make clear the future of the Jobs Retention Bonus, the cancellation of which has undermined confidence the administration has hoped to deliver. It’s impossible to save jobs without saving businesses, which is why we need to see an increase to the level of support provided in grants, which aren’t even covering rent let alone the myriad of other fixed costs businesses face.
“Small businesses are absolutely at the heart of our communities, and we rely on them more than ever. Which is why we need to ensure that they have the right support in place during what should normally be a busy, successful and joyous festive period.”