Weather could be final nail for small firms

The severe wintry weather of recent weeks could be the “final nail in the coffin” for some small businesses, a Suffolk business leader warned today.

SUFFOLK: The severe wintry weather of recent weeks could be the “final nail in the coffin” for some small businesses, a Suffolk business leader warned today.

Paul Winter, chairman of the Suffolk branch of the Institute of Directors, called for a summit of local authorities and business to discuss how the county can deal with a weather event such as the recent long cold, wintry spell.

His call came as the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) called for a special conference to review the government's contingency planning after snow and icy weather brought the UK to a near standstill in some places.

The FSB said the bad weather had cost the UK economy an estimated �600million a day, with staff unable to get into work.

Mr Winter today called for more to be done in Suffolk to keep smaller roads open as he predicted businesses in the hospitality industry will have been particularly hard hit.

“The severe weather we have experienced since shortly before Christmas is unusual but despite the high degree of accuracy of the weather forecasts the authorities did seem to get caught out on occasions,” he said.

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“The disruption to business has been significant and in a rural area like Suffolk more needs to be done to keep smaller roads open.

“Perhaps the biggest problem has been the impact of school closures. Too many schools seemed to close too easily and without a lot of thought being given to alternative solutions for child care and the impact on business.

“For many small businesses particularly in the hospitality industry the loss of income they have experienced in recent weeks could sadly be the final nail in the coffin.

“We clearly can't expect the council to do everything. A summit of local authorities and business should be held to discuss how we can all deal with this sort of event.”

But chief executive of Suffolk Chamber John Dugmore said the problems had been limited by the reactions of businesses and staff.

“Whilst three quarters of businesses say their activities were disrupted in one form or another, they reported relatively few absences and therefore business flexibility and employee diligence limited the economic impact of the latest cold snap,” he said.

Did the authorities properly react to the big freeze? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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