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Suffolk businesses react to new coronavirus job support scheme

PUBLISHED: 14:45 24 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:30 24 September 2020

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak holds a copy of his Winter Economy Plan outside No 11 Downing Street.  Picture: DOMINIC LIPINKSI/PA WIRE

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak holds a copy of his Winter Economy Plan outside No 11 Downing Street. Picture: DOMINIC LIPINKSI/PA WIRE

Business leaders have said chancellor Rishi Sunak’s new Job Support Scheme is a “very welcome” boost to Suffolk’s economy - although some have questioned whether it goes far enough.

Darren Ryan, director at Morrison Freight  Picture: MORRISON FREIGHTDarren Ryan, director at Morrison Freight Picture: MORRISON FREIGHT

In a speech to the House of Commons, Mr Sunak said the government’s new Winter Economic Plan would protect “viable” jobs, rather than those which are being kept going on the furlough scheme alone.

Under the terms of the new scheme, the government will top up the wages of people working at least a third of their normal hours.

MORE: Chancellor reveals plan to save jobs by paying two thirds of lost wages

SEH French directors Simon Girling, left, and Paul Rodwell Picture: WARREN PAGE/PAGEPIXSEH French directors Simon Girling, left, and Paul Rodwell Picture: WARREN PAGE/PAGEPIX

They will be paid for that work as normal, with the state and employers then increasing those wages to cover two-thirds of the pay they have lost by working reduced hours.

It will cost the Treasury an estimated £300million a month for every 1million workers who take up the scheme.

He also extended the self-employment income support scheme and 15% VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism sectors, as well as help for businesses in repaying government-backed loans.

Here is what businesses from across Suffolk think:

Construction

According to one Ipswich-based boss, the construction industry will struggle until the rest of the economy recovers - but these measures will allow firms to keep staff onboard.

Simon Girling, director of SEH French Construction, said: “The construction industry is being suppressed because the industries that we rely on to build offices, warehouses and industrial units are being suppressed.

“The opportunity to win work has been reduced and that’s not just for us, it’s industry wide.

“Today’s announcement about the Job Support Scheme will certainly assist us.

“We want to keep our fantastic team together and have spent many years building our team to what it is today.

“The government’s initiatives will certainly give us scope to retain staff by temporarily reducing workloads and hours accordingly.

“It’s always very difficult to reduce our numbers to fit the business’ needs. So, this news is very welcome for us and the industry and will prevent some organisations from doing the ultimate thing of making people redundant.”

Haulage

A Great Blakenham-based haulier believes the Winter Economic Plan could support the small businesses that his firm works with.

Darren Ryan, director of Morrison Freight, said: “We work with a range of different sized businesses, many of whom are operating on reduced hours and skeleton staff.

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“The job support scheme will give many small businesses a cushion to help prevent them from having to scale back employee numbers.

“We also think the pay as you grow scheme would be great for small businesses, especially in the hospitality side where their trading is restricted by new legislation and curfews.

“We certainly welcome these new initiatives and we hope these will play a part in helping to protect our fellow businesses through this difficult period.”

Retail

A shop owner has called the chancellor’s plans a “welcome intervention” and hopes they will allow people to keep supporting local businesses.

Paul Venediger, co-owner of Woodbridge Kitchen Company, said: “Anything that helps to protect jobs during such an uncertain period of trading is a very welcome intervention.

“It’s important that we try avoid redundancies to protect people’s willingness to support local business.”

Arts

A gallery owner hopes that the measures will be enough to keep the arts available in the community for people to enjoy.

Susie Turner, found and owner of Gallery East in Woodbridge, said: “The new plans are a welcome intervention from Rishi Sunak.

“We hope that these measures can benefit the arts sector, as it’s hugely important for community wellbeing that people have arts available to them in all forms, whether that be music, painting or theatre.”

MORE: How one of Britain’s smallest pubs hopes to be unaffected by new Covid rules

Hospitality

Two of East Anglia’s largest breweries disagree over whether the Winter Economic Plan goes far enough to support the hospitality industry.
Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, said: “The industry is still dealing with the crippling aftereffects of the nationwide lockdown and the cumulative effect of the new restrictions, combined with the singling out of pubs, mean the measures announced by the Chancellor don’t go far enough, especially for drink-led city centre pubs.
“More targeted support is needed to help those people whose pubs remain closed, or businesses that were starting to recover which have again become unviable.”

“With Public Health England figures showing only 5% of all outbreaks are linked to hospitality, it feels like pubs are being unfairly targeted when there is little evidence that they enable the spread of Covid-19. Like the rest of the industry, we are doing all we can to help fight the virus and have invested significantly in ensuring that our pubs are safe for customers which is reflected in PHE’s data.”
But Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams, disagreed. He said: “Adnams has been very grateful for the support provided by the chancellor over the last few months, it has provided much need reassurance for us as employers and our employees alike.

“The most eye-catching part of Mr Sunak’s Winter Economic Plan is the job support scheme.

“The devil will be in the detail, but our assessment is that this support will be very welcome news for our industry and our wider supply chains.”

Mr Wood added that he thought the plan was targeted enough because of the extra VAT reduction and flexibility on paying back government backed loans.
“The hospitality industry has a supply chain,” he said. “It might be cleaners, the suppliers of our napkins or our lorries – that sort of thing. So one has to think a little bit beyond the boundary of the immediate sector.”


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