Chamber concerned for businesses due to restrictions extension

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is concerned that businesses  are at risk of closing permanently due to the government’s extension of the current Covid restrictions, without accompanying support for those affected.

The Chamber is calling on the government to look again and consider extending current support streams such as business rates relief, VAT deferrals and furlough, especially for the most affected sectors.

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce Managing Director Suzanne Caldwell spoke on BBC Radio Cumbria’s breakfast show to host Mike Zeller this week about the challenges facing businesses and how the lack of support streams in line with the extension could have real long term impact.

Businesses in hospitality, non-essential retail, leisure and fitness, tourism, nightlife and the arts are likely to be the most affected by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday evening.

Under the current extension lifting of all coronavirus restrictions in England has been delayed beyond 21 June, with most current rules remaining in place for at least another four weeks after this date. This extension will allow more people to be vaccinated and receive second doses amid rising cases of the Delta variant. No extension has been announced to the ending of the furlough scheme, VAT deferral scheme or business rates relief.

Chamber Managing Director Suzanne Caldwell, said: “There’s real concern that some businesses in Cumbria just won’t survive unless the government extends the support packages available.

“Many businesses, especially in sectors such as hospitality, tourism and leisure, sales, non-essential retail, nightlife and the arts are now at or close to the end of their tether financially. And with spiralling stress, many business people feel increasingly unable to continue to manage through that stress, or indeed willing to do so.

“This isn’t a comment on the rights or wrongs of extending restrictions from a health perspective.

“While four weeks in itself may not seem long, it comes on the back of around 15 months of closure or very restricted trading.

“They’ve either not been earning at all or they’ve been earning significantly less than usual because they’ve had to operate at a reduced capacity.

In addition they’ve been gearing up for relaxation of the rules and starting to spend in anticipation of that, at a time when they really can’t afford it.”

Cumbria Chamber is working with other Chambers nationally to lobby the government that the Treasury needs to provide more funding and support to help businesses at this challenging time.

Suzanne added: “We’re hugely disappointed we didn’t see more help for businesses in line with what was announced on Monday evening. Many business owners will quite rightly feel they’re being ignored.

“Businesses are having to increase their financial input as part of future furlough payments from July onwards, rates relief is coming to an end and there are concerns for how businesses will cover accumulated debt if their key summer season is cut even shorter.

“Even if businesses can survive in the short term, many rely on a strong summer to get them through winter, and this raises concerning questions over whether that is realistically feasible.”

**The Chamber advises businesses to check its Covid Toolkit, which has details of the new restrictions and links to apply for grants for businesses that are affected by the restrictions.

The toolkit is on the Chamber’s website at:

© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce