Great Britain

Extra grants 'lifeline' but more help needed say businesses

EXTRA grants to help reopen are a “lifeline” but more needs to be done to keep businesses afloat, say East Lancashire businesses.

The Chancellor yesterday confirmed £5bn in grants will be available to distribute to businesses from local authorities, with some sectors able to claim up to £18,000.

The money, which will be available in April, has been described as a “lifeline” by one landlady who has kept her pub doors shut since October last year.

Carole Davis, who runs the Clifton Arms on Grimshaw Park, said: “It is a lifeline, it really is. That worry of ‘okay we can restock’ as we have the money to restock so we are not going into debit to start off with. It will be a tremendous help to get us on that right road to be able to open knowing we have got everything we need to have in place."

“We know it will be restricted with stuff like table service and face masks but we are gearing towards unrestricted that will hopefully be June 21.”

The 'restart grants' will help non-essential retailers reopen and trade safely and are worth up to £6,000 per premises. Hospitality, hotels, gyms, as well as personal care and leisure firms, will be eligible for up to £18,000 per premises as they are due to open later under the plans for easing lockdown.

Michael Huckerby who runs the Lawrence Hotel in Padiham is unable to reopen until May 17 when bed and breakfasts will also be open at the earliest.

Although he welcomes the help, he thinks more needs to be done to keep businesses afloat after they reopen.

He said: “It’s a great first step but what we need is the five per cent VAT rate to continue throughout the year and the business rate relief. The grant is held into insignificance when you compare what those two things mean to us.”

Chief executive of East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, Miranda Barker agrees with Michael that although the support is welcome, it will only be “a drop in the ocean” for some businesses. She said: “We are glad to hear of any additional support for businesses and the recognition of the hospitality, leisure and tourism industry as they try to reopen.

“Unfortunately for some businesses, it will only be a drop in the ocean. It is very important that in the Budget we hear about the continuation of the support measures like furlough, the potential to extending business rate support and VAT support.”

Mr Sunak said: “Our local businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic which is why we went big and went early with a multibillion-pound package of support.

“There’s now light at the end of the tunnel and this £5 billion of extra cash grants will ensure our high street can open their doors with optimism.”

Local authorities will be tasked with distributing the grants and will receive the funding in April. It has not yet been confirmed whether other support, such as the business rate relief will be extended in Wednesday's Budget.

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