Time for government to ‘put their hand in their pocket’ after handbrake announcement say businesses

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covi

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Photo: PA Video/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Suffolk businesses have called on the government to “put their hand in their pocket” after the prime minister further delayed the easing of some lockdown measures.

Measures due to be lifted on Saturday, including allowing small wedding receptions and reopening bowling alleys and casinos, have been delayed for at least two weeks as Boris Johnson warned the country “cannot be complacent” amid a rise in the prevalence of coronavirus in the community.

Claire Gouge, who manages Bury Bowl in Bury St Edmunds, said the bowling alley would now have to consider making redundancies if it did not receive assistance from the government.

“I’m absolutely gutted. We’ve had no council funding, no government funding and we’ve been shut for four and a half months,” she said.

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“We were the first ones to close and the last ones to reopen. I’ve worked 50 or 60 hours a week to make sure that we stay on the map in Bury.

“I’m currently sitting in my office with my head in my hands thinking the next step is to make people redundant – which I didn’t want to do.

“We’ve got to make £10,000 a week to keep afloat. We have a £5,000 a week wage bill that we were ready to take back on from furlough. Nobody has helped us apart from the owner who’s 72 years old and ready to retire – he’s fully supported all 25 members of staff and spent money every week on contracts.

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“Now is the time for the government to put their hands in their pocket and help us, otherwise I will be knocking on number 10 myself because I am so annoyed.

The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce called the government’s announcement seriously disruptive for businesses expecting to reopen this week,

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Paul Simon, the Chamber’s head of communications & campaigns, said: “While tackling the ongoing public health emergency must be the priority, these handbrake turn announcements will be seriously disruptive to our members in those sectors that were anticipating a resumption of trading this weekend.

“Suffolk Chamber is calling on the Johnson administration to better combine such tactical about turns with a clearer strategic messaging about options and approaches to future COVID-19 spikes, whether localised or more general in nature.

“In addition, ministers must also extend support to these firms, many of whom will be forced to close for an even more prolonged period, as well as targeted measures to help businesses placed under localised lockdowns.”