Tier 4: Firms need 'clear plan' for coming months, say leaders

Primark was a popular choice with shoppers seeing queues all the way up the high street. Picture:

Suffolk business leaders have called on the government for more support - Credit: Archant

Shops and firms could face a "grim 12 months" if the "stop-start" approach by the government during the coronavirus pandemic continues, business leaders have warned.

The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, which represents firms across the county, has said 2021 "could be a year of renewal" for the business community.

However, it also warned there could be further job losses if there is not further clarity on the current situation.

Suffolk has been in Tier 4 since Boxing Day, meaning all non-essential retailers and hospitality businesses have been ordered to close.

The government's next review of the tier system is due to take place on Wednesday - but MPs have warned the lifting of restrictions is "extremely unlikely" and could be in place for several weeks.

The Suffolk Chamber has said it is pressing the government for a "clear 12-month plan" of what financial support will be available for firms which have been hit by the pandemic.

The organisation also called for clarity on schemes, such as furlough and business rates relief, ahead of the new year.

Suffolk County Council had previously warned 20,000 people in the county could be made redundant as a result of the pandemic.

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Paul Simon, head of communications and policy at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: "2021 could be a year of renewal for Suffolk’s brilliant business community, or it could be a grim 12 months of business failures and accelerated job losses.

Paul Simon of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce. Picture: Paul Simon

Paul Simon, of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said clarity was needed from the government over plans in the new year - Credit: Archant

"Everyone, whether they live and work in the county or are in government, has a role to play in deciding which future comes to pass.

"Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and its members, all of whom are so vital to and embedded within their respective communities, would urge all Suffolk residents to respect Covid-19 health guidance and so ensure that the county exits Tier 4 as soon as possible and thereafter can speedily return to full trading conditions.

"But the government has a role as well.

"Suffolk Chamber continues to press ministers for a clear 12-month plan of financial and practical support for businesses, including clarity on the furlough scheme and an extension of rates relief, rather than the constant stop-start and bolt-on approach adopted by the government throughout much of 2020."