'Businesses face disaster' - Calls for financial support and furlough return

Ipswich Central's Terry Baxter

Ipswich Central's Terry Baxter has appealed for more support for businesses. - Credit: Nicole Drury/IBC

Ipswich Central chairman Terry Baxter has written to political and commercial leaders to ask for more help for businesses who have been hammered by the threat of the new Omicron variant of Covid.

And his plea was backed by Ipswich MP Tom Hunt who said he would contact the Treasury and Downing Street to outline the concerns from the town.

Mr Baxter said many businesses were distraught about the impact of Plan B which has led to fewer people shopping, a hit to productivity because of people working from home and cancellations at bars, cafes and restaurants.

One thing he wants to see is a temporary return for furlough payments.

The letter has been sent to Mr Hunt, Suffolk County Council and the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce. It says: "Right now businesses face disaster. Their takings are falling day-by-day and, yet they have no additional financial assistance and no furlough scheme to fall back on to help save jobs."

It says help is needed now - it would be too late for some businesses if a package was not put together until January - and there were six key demands:

  • The furlough scheme is reintroduced until March.
  • Further grant funds are made for the Additional Restriction Funds.
  • Further business rates relief is introduced and there is an extension of the VAT relief for hospitality, accommodation and attractions.
  • A review of the guidance from January for use of commercial premises, including workplaces.
  • The reintroduction of the Covid statutory sick pay scheme.
  • Ensure that any future measures are evidence-based and accompanied by immediate financial aid for those affected.
Tom Hunt has yet to decided on how he will vote

Tom Hunt has backed Ipswich Central's call for more support. - Credit: House of Commons

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Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said: "I’m also very concerned about town centre businesses, particularly hospitality. Clearly I’ve had many of the same conversations that Terry has been having with owners of these businesses. Many are experiencing significant cancellation rates.

"You only need to walk about town at certain times of the day to see the issue for yourself. But of course these are the consequences of restrictions and lockdown rhetoric.

"Due to the developments over the past week or so I think it’s only right that financial support is immediately provided by the Government and the borough council. However this cannot continue for ever.

"Colossal sums of taxpayers' money has already been spent on these sorts of rescue packages and in the medium to long term it’s clearly not a sustainable approach.

"The only sustainable approach is to learn to live with Covid and to avoid the endless cycle of restrictions we’ve seen over the past 20 months. Lockdowns and the rhetoric around them are not consequence free and that is what we are continuing to see."

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is back in Britain after returning early from a government trip to California - and support for business was defended by Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Sunday.

He told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One: “I completely understand businesses now coming forward to say ‘I’m hard hit’, and they have every right to make those representations to Government.

“The Chancellor and his team are listening, I think the Chancellor has done an excellent job throughout this pandemic in dealing with this and no doubt he will keep things under review.”