East Anglian business leaders call for more Covid support

Suffolk business leaders have called for more support for businesses as the furlough scheme starts t

Suffolk business leaders have called for more support for businesses as the furlough scheme starts to wind down Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Business leaders across East Anglia have called for the government to consider extending their coronavirus support schemes to protect livelihoods in the East.

Bosses from the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have spoken out to say that the government needs to do more to protect businesses and jobs.

The LEP focused on extending the furlough scheme after their analysis showed that there could be more than 120,000 redundancies in Norfolk and Suffolk, while the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce focused on supporting businesses with loans.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia LEP, said: “As we near the end of the period of the furlough scheme, it’s clear that careful thought needs to be given to extension or revision so that some support is still provided for those who need it.

“Earlier in the summer we commissioned research which projected more than 120,000 redundancies across Norfolk and Suffolk and we are sure that many of those are yet to come. A large number of those are likely to be from the hardest hit sectors – tourism, culture, retail, leisure and hospitality – where there is no option to trade online and they rely on face-to-face contact. Therefore one option might be to introduce a scheme to support workers in those sectors, particularly as we head into what will be a very difficult winter.”

Paul Simon, head of campaigns and communications at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “The UK economy is currently in a period of temporary calm, with activity buoyed by the government’s emergency support measures and the unwinding of pent-up customer demand as more parts of the economy reopened.

“However, with many firms continuing to face an unprecedented cash crisis and unemployment likely to grow as the support schemes wind down, there remains little prospect of a sustained resurgence unless substantial action is taken.

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“To protect jobs and livelihoods, the government should consider extending and adapting the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to ensure businesses are supported sustainably over a longer period, as well as introducing a more significant package of support for firms placed under local restrictions.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “The furlough scheme has done what it was designed to do - save jobs and help people back into employment.

“And many of our unprecedented interventions - including the Job Retention Bonus, business rates holidays, VAT cuts and the Kickstart Scheme - will ensure this support continues into next year.

“We’ve not hesitated to act in creative and effective ways to support jobs and we will continue to do so as we recover from this crisis.”