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Somerset Chamber CEO says extended furlough is no substitute for a thriving business economy

Businesses have had the rug pulled from underneath them with the announcement of a second lockdown, according to Stephen Henagulph, Chief Executive of Somerset Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Henagulph said firms had done everything they could to be COVID-secure and while an extension to the furlough scheme was to be welcomed, it was only a ‘sticking plaster’ and not a long-term fix to ensure a vibrant economy.

Speaking on BBC Somerset on Monday morning, Mr Henagulph said: “From the retail side it’s devastating news for Somerset businesses – this time of year is what they term as the golden quarter running-up to Christmas when retailers on the High Street will be expecting to get high footfall but we’re just not going to see that and that’s going to have a massive impact on our local economy and for local firms.

“The real frustration is that retailers and other businesses have put in a great deal of work to make their premises COVID-secure with safe-distancing measures and the rug has been pulled out from underneath them and they’re back to square one.

“Furlough is not a long-term fix and we must remember that the extension of the furlough scheme is only a sticking plaster, it’s not a substitute for a thriving business economy. It’s incredibly important we have support for our workers, but the furlough scheme is only supporting workers, businesses still have to pay their utility bills, rent and rates, all against the backdrop of a devastating loss of income.

“We need to get Test and Trace working properly and efficiently so businesses can get results quickly. Somerset businesses are great at being adaptable and have done everything they have been told to do within the Government guidelines but now they’re right back where they started again.”

For a full round-up of the support currently on offer to firms and for the British Chambers of Commerce reaction, please click here.

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