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Second lockdown a "devastating blow to business communities", says BCC

The second national lockdown in England has been described as a “devastating blow to business communities” by British Chambers of Commerce Director General Adam Marshall.

He said business confidence had already been hit hard and there appeared to be no end in sight.

People will have to work from home where possible, pubs and restaurants, among other businesses, will have to close, with only shops selling “essential” goods allowed to open.

The lockdown is due to end on December 2 when different regions will return to the tiers one to three, depending on the rates of infection.

Dr Marshall said: “There’s no getting around the fact that these new restrictions will be a devastating blow to business communities who have done everything in their power to adapt and operate safely. 

“Business and market confidence have been hit hard by the unclear, stop-start approach taken by governments across the UK over the past eight months, with little end in sight. Many firms are in a much weaker position now than at the start of the pandemic, making it far more challenging to survive extended closures or demand restrictions. 

“The temporary extension of the furlough scheme will bring short-term relief to many firms, and responds to Chambers’ call for business support to be commensurate with the scale of the restrictions imposed. While there is no substitute for a functioning economy, the full financial support package for businesses facing hardship, whether through loss of demand or closure, must immediately be clarified and communicated. Sustained help must be available to employers, to the self-employed and to the many businesses and individuals that have not been able to access any of the government’s schemes to date.    

“The Government must not squander the time afforded to them through another lockdown to enable mass testing and fix Test and Trace systems – which hold the key to a lasting exit strategy for both public health and the economy. 

“We will be examining the detail of new restrictions and support carefully over the coming days, together with Chamber business leaders across the country. Business communities will judge them on whether they are clear and evidence-based – and on whether businesses are able to see when these restrictions may come to an end.”

Under the lockdown rules, people must work from home if they can, although workplaces will be asked to stay open if people cannot work from home – including construction and manufacturing.

Households will not be allowed to mix with others indoors, or in private gardens, although individuals can meet one person from outside their household in an outside public space.

Business which can remain open include:

  • Food shops, supermarkets, garden centres and certain other retailers providing essential goods and services

Business which will have to close during the lockdown include:

  • All pubs and restaurants
  • All non-essential retail, including, but not limited to clothing and electronics stores, vehicle showrooms, travel agents, betting shops, auction houses, tailors, car washes, tobacco and vape shops
  • Indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, leisure centres and gyms, sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, dance studios, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls and climbing centres, archery and shooting ranges, water and theme parks
  • Entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, adult gaming centres and arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, concert halls, zoos and other animal attractions, botanical gardens
  • Personal care facilities such as hair, beauty and nail salons, tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services, non-medical acupuncture, and tanning salons

Financial support

Furlough payments under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended at 80% for the duration of England’s second lockdown. Workers will be paid at least 80% of their salary up to £2,500 a month, with employers being asked to pay National Insurance and pensions contributions for their staff during November.

The proposed new Job Support Scheme will now not be introduced until after the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends.

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will be extended to cover the new lockdown period. Two grants will be available, each for three-month periods, covering November 2020 to January 2021 and February 2021 to April 2021. Funding will also increase from 40% to 80% of average trading profits in November. People will be able to apply from the end of November rather than the middle of December, with support provided faster. The max grant increases to £5,160.

In addition, business premises forced to close in England will receive grants worth up to £3,000 per month under the Local Restrictions Support Grant. An additional £1.1bn is being given to local authorities for one-off payments to enable them to support businesses locally.

Businesses required to close in England due to local or national restrictions will be eligible for the following:

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15k or under, grants to be £1,334 per month, or £667 per two weeks
  • For properties with a rateable value of between £15k-£51k grants to be £2,000 per month, or £1,000 per two weeks
  • For properties with a rateable value of £51k or over grants to be £3,000 per month, or £1,500 per two weeks

Quick links to Government help and advice

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Job Support Scheme (once furlough ends)

New Style Employment and Support Allowance

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

Local Restrictions Support Grant

Full details of second lockdown restrictions

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