Give us an ex­tra bailout, Le­ices­ter firms urge min­is­ters

Bosses seek ad­di­tional sup­port and more clar­ity af­ter city be­comes the first to re­turn to lock­down

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Tom Rees

BUSI­NESSES and civic lead­ers in locked-down Le­ices­ter are plead­ing for more sup­port as the city’s econ­omy is bat­tered by a sec­ond wave of coro­n­avirus re­stric­tions.

Anx­ious bosses are urg­ing min­is­ters to give the area an ex­tra fi­nan­cial boost and more clar­ity on the new re­stric­tions, af­ter com­plain­ing about “abysmal” com­mu­ni­ca­tions by of­fi­cials.

Em­ploy­ers in Le­ices­ter will be al­lowed to put staff back on tax­payer­funded fur­lough from July 1 if they used the Chan­cel­lor’s jobs sup­port scheme between March 1 and June 30. How­ever, of­fi­cials were urged to pro­vide a broader re­sponse to help firms sur­vive the set­back in the forms of fur­ther grants and loans.

Scott Knowles, head of the East Mid­lands Cham­ber of Com­merce, warned the re­stric­tions will land a sig­nif­i­cant blow on busi­nesses that will now need ad­di­tional sup­port above and be­yond what has al­ready been pro­vided.

He said firms should be com­pen­sated for the cost of ready­ing them­selves for re­open­ing, with hard work and money spent on a re­turn to nor­mal that is now go­ing to be de­layed for at least two weeks.

Mr Knowles warned there is a risk of a “two-tier” re­cov­ery, where cities put into ex­tended lock­down are left be­hind ar­eas that are not.

Le­ices­ter was or­dered back into lock­down on Mon­day evening af­ter it be­came a hot­bed for Covid-19, ac­count­ing for a 10th of all pos­i­tive cases in Eng­land in the last seven days.

Non-es­sen­tial shops have been shut­tered only two weeks af­ter re­open­ing, schools will close for most pupils to­mor­row and a planned loos­en­ing of re­stric­tions on pubs and restau­rants this Satur­day has been post­poned.

Clau­dia Webbe, Labour MP for Le­ices­ter East, called for the Gov­ern­ment’s eco­nomic aid to be “ex­tended and ex­panded” by widen­ing sup­port for the hospi­tal­ity sec­tor and help­ing more firms ac­cess loans.

Sir Peter Soulsby, the city’s mayor, also ap­pealed for ad­di­tional help for the lo­cal econ­omy.

He said: “If Le­ices­ter is to be treated dif­fer­ently in terms of the lock­down, we also need to be treated dif­fer­ently in terms of the sup­port for busi­nesses.”

Busi­nesses were an­gered by the sud­den lock­down an­nounce­ment late on Mon­day and a lack of clar­ity from the Gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing over travel re­stric­tions. Josh Gray, the co-owner of

‘Some of the busi­nesses I have spo­ken to are cheesed off. They are mul­ti­ple thou­sands of pounds down’

the West End Brew­ery, called the Gov­ern­ment’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions “abysmal” af­ter post­pon­ing the re­open­ing of his brew­ery and pub be­fore the new mea­sures were an­nounced amid surg­ing cases in the city. He said many firms in the area were frus­trated af­ter only re­cently re­open­ing.

Mr Gray said: “Some of the lo­cal busi­nesses I have spo­ken to are pretty cheesed off. They came back a cou­ple of weeks ago and now they are be­ing told to shut again when they are mul­ti­ple thou­sands of pounds down and have brought staff off fur­lough.”

Rick Black­more, re­gional di­rec­tor of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Bri­tish In­dus­try, said firms des­per­ately need more clar­ity af­ter in­vest­ing heav­ily in re­open­ing. He added: “Firms need to know how lock­down will work in prac­tice and what ad­di­tional sup­port those af­fected can draw upon.”

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