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‘£6,000 is a tiny amount considering the financial pressures’ – West Midlands business leaders react to Chancellor’s covid support package

Written by on 21/12/2021

Business leaders in the West Midlands have given a cautious but broadly supportive welcome to today’s announcement of a support package for companies affected by the covid pandemic.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to remain vigilant as the omicron variant spread, with office staff asked to switch back to working from home and socialising discouraged.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has now outlined a £1 billion package of measures for those businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors which are now feeling the pinch as our town centres are bereft of office workers and Christmas parties are cancelled.

It includes:

  • One-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the affected sectors in England. Funding is set to be administered by councils and be available in the coming weeks
  • Cover for the cost of statutory sick pay for covid-related absences for firms with fewer than 250 employees
  • A further £30 million for the Culture Recovery Fund to help cultural organisations in England survive the winter

Read more reaction here to the Chancellor’s announcement

Mr Sunak said: “We recognise that the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time.

“So we’re stepping in with £1 billion of support, including a new grant scheme, the reintroduction of the statutory sick pay rebate scheme and further funding released through the culture recovery fund.”

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Helen Peters is chief executive of tourism body Shakespeare’s England which looks after south Warwickshire and the surrounding areas.

She said that any support was welcome, adding: “It is good to see they have listened to the calls from businesses to provide extra help.

“But for a lot of hospitality and leisure businesses, a maximum grant of £6,000 is a tiny amount considering the huge financial pressures so many of them are facing.

“However, £1 billion is a lot of money, and we are grateful that, at last, some support is being offered to businesses who are seeing incomes plummet through no fault of their own.”

Read all of our business news coverage related to the pandemic here

Sean Rose, head of policy at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We welcome this new support package and, as before, it’s vitally important the money is easy to access and gets out to those businesses that need it most as quickly as possible.

“This could be a lifeline at what should be their busiest time of year. It’s not clear if there are going to be further restrictions in the coming days and weeks but it’s vitally important that, whatever happens, the Government is ready to support businesses even further to help them through this difficult period.”

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Mike Cherry is a director of Staffordshire timber merchant WH Mason & Son and national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses.

He called the measures “positive” and hoped they would arrest a significant decline in confidence over this year.

“With the prospect of one million people sick or self-isolating by January, we encouraged the Chancellor to bring back the covid statutory sick pay rebate – we’re pleased to see our recommendation taken forward today,” he said.

“This move will reduce stress for small employers up and down the country, helping those who are struggling most with depleted cash flow.

“It’s vital that small firms, once again up against a massively disrupted festive season, can reclaim the costs of supporting staff.

“We’ve always said that support needs to move in lockstep with restrictions and this intervention will help give small businesses confidence this is the approach the Government will be taking.”

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