Tier 4 is a 'hammer blow' for Ipswich businesses, leader warns

Ipswich Central chair Terry Baxter. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Ipswich Central chairman Terry Baxter said Tier 4 would be a 'hammer blow' for business - and urged for them to get more financial help - Credit: Archant

Moving Ipswich into Tier 4 will be a "hammer blow" for businesses, a community leader has warned - as he called for greater financial help for firms affected by the latest restrictions.

Health secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock said it was "absolutely vital" to take swift action as case numbers escalate due to a new, mutated form of the virus.

Debenhams on the Ipswich Cornhill

Tier 4 will mean non-essential shops in Ipswich once again having to close - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The new rules, which come into effect at 00.01am on Boxing Day, have been described by Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, as "inevitable" in a bid to ensure the county's hospitals are not overwhelmed.

Suffolk has experienced a 96% rise in case numbers over the last week, with the county's infection rate at 188 cases per 100,000 people.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said the move "hasn't really come as a surprise", adding: "Though my concerns for the local economy are as strong as ever, I have a responsibility as MP to support measures that protect the vulnerable."

While he agreed the new "variant of the coronavirus has proved a step too far to withstand", Ipswich Central chairman Terry Baxter said: “The news that Ipswich is to move into Tier 4 is yet another hammer blow to businesses in our town."

Ipswich Cornhill at 11am on Wednesday before lockdown came into effect. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Shops in Ipswich would have been opening after Christmas for Boxing Day sales - Credit: Charlotte Bond

He said Ipswich Central is "urgently calling for greater clarity for its levy payers as to how long the initial period in Tier 4 is likely to run, what criteria will be used to release businesses from the restrictions are being put in place and to be given suitable time to manage stock and staffing issues".

He also also called for "suitable and significant recompense for businesses affected" - in particular an extension on the freeze on business rates for a further 12 months from April 2021.

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Mr Baxter would also like to see a reduction in VAT payable by hospitality businesses, as well as an increase in the value of grants and compensation "that better reflect the true losses being incurred by those we represent".

He added: "Government has supported individual employees by way of the furlough scheme and that is greatly appreciated by those receiving it.

"However, without direct and significantly improved support for the business who employ these people, once the furlough scheme ends, many of those who have been in receipt of it will not have viable jobs to go back to because those businesses will no longer be there.”

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said the move "confirms just how serious the increase in coronavirus cases is in Suffolk".

He added: "While I know people will be disappointed that we will face additional restrictions from Boxing Day I cannot stress enough how important it is for every one of us to follow the rules and stay at home.”

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