Help needed for sectors worst hit by lockdown easing delay

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Economic support must stay in place for businesses and people on furlough, according to Mayor of South Yorkshire Dan Jarvis.

With the expected news confirmed that social distancing rules will now remain in place until July 19, instead of being removed on June 21, Jarvis said the need for a cautious approach was understandable to ensure more people get vaccinated as COVID-19 infection rates continue rising.

But he warned the crisis is an economic issue, not just a health matter, so the delay to the lockdown roadmap must be accompanied by the right support.

Quarterly rent on commercial properties is due on June 23 and from July 1 businesses will no longer be protected from eviction.  From July, the Government contribution to the furlough scheme is to be reduced to 70%.

Jarvis said: “It’s been a horrendous year for hospitality and for the music and entertainment industry, many of our venues in South Yorkshire have not been able to open for well over a year.

Dan Jarvis

“Vast amounts of preparation will already have gone into getting ready to reopen on June 21. Many will have sold tickets, bought stock and hired staff in preparation.

“If restrictions remain, then support must remain too. That means no drop in furlough payments, no change to business rates relief and no lifting of the safeguards preventing evictions.”

Also responding to yesterday evening’s Government update on restrictions, Rebecca Hill, the owner of Galtres Lodge Hotel and Forest restaurant in York, said: “For us, last night’s update was difficult but not devastating – although we appreciate that won’t be the case for everyone.

“The lifting of restrictions would make things easier, of course, and bring the sense of normality that many are craving.

“Working in hospitality, we’ve been missing the non-verbal contact, such as smiling, that are key to forming connections with our guests.

“We do however understand the need to follow precautions, and we have effective measures in place throughout our venue, which we’ll continue to adhere to until lockdown is lifted for good.

“We hope our wonderful customers will continue to bear with us knowing these measures aren’t permanent and that we’re doing our best to ensure safe service for everybody.”

Amber Beresford, Leeds Chamber president, said: “There needs to be appropriate support measures available to those sectors and their supply chains still affected.

“Certain sectors of the economy continue to be severely damaged by lockdown, possibly long-term, and all areas of business and industry need to be back up-and-running as soon as possible.

Susan Hinchcliffe

“That said, we understand the difficulties caused by the different emerging variants of the pandemic and the difficult balance between protecting health and supporting the economy.”

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, added: “This is clearly disappointing news for those businesses who were planning to open and for people planning events and holidays.

“But we know infection rates are rising quickly so we have to support the Government’s decision. We all want to stop people becoming infected and prevent further restrictions and another lockdown.

“We ask that everyone remains vigilant and follow the guidance so that we will see easing of restrictions again in four weeks’ time.

“We know vaccinations make a huge difference, so if you are offered one, please take it.”