Harrogate business leaders' cautious reaction to Government's latest support measures

Harrogate business leaders have given a cautious welcome to today's decision by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the furlough scheme.
Harrogate's business world has welcomed the extension of the furlough scheme for employees but is worried it may imply the new lockdown may be extended, too.Harrogate's business world has welcomed the extension of the furlough scheme for employees but is worried it may imply the new lockdown may be extended, too.
Harrogate's business world has welcomed the extension of the furlough scheme for employees but is worried it may imply the new lockdown may be extended, too.

The move to pay up to 80% of a person's wage each month until March is part of a raft of new financial measures to support people during the new lockdown to counter rising Covid figures, which is scheduled to run until December 2.

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But the Government's U-turn on furloughing, which will apply across the UK, has also raised concern in some quarters that it may imply the current tough regime against the pandemic may be extended beyond next month's date.

Sara Ferguson, acting chair of Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID), said: “This news from the Chancellor will be welcomed by many businesses who have again had to shut their doors because of this new lockdown.

“It will also give those on furlough some comfort in the weeks and months ahead, and in particular those who had only days before lost their jobs and can now be rehired.

“But it does make you wonder if this has been done this in preparation for the lockdown being extended beyond December 2?

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“There is also the major worry that many businesses who survived the first lockdown might not recover from the second one, particularly if the ‘R rate’ isn’t coming down and the restrictions are continued.”

Mr Sunak told the Commons earlier today that the Government would review the furloughing scheme in January.

The chancellor said his intention was "to give businesses security through the winter".

He also announced that support through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) would be increased, with the third grant covering November to January calculated at 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500.

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But Sandra Doherty, chief executive of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, fears that the Government was still not doing enough to help the self-employed and new starters.

She said: “It’s a start. To be furloughed is still to have a job and a hope for a return to full employment at some point in the future.

“In reality it’s still a big issue for many families. Despite not having the costs of traveling to work they do still have all the regular costs of living to contend with.

"So, any reduction in income will bring worries.

"Just before Christmas when many people overspend anyway it will be particularly tough.

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“My worry is still for those self-employed who fall through the cracks of the various schemes. "We can’t furlough ourselves and can’t claim through the self-employed grant unless we fit into a very specific set of criteria.

“New starters, people who didn’t earn enough and those who invested in their businesses giving rise to little or no profit in during the last three years, are all being penalised for their hard work in keeping themselves afloat during the last difficult trading years."

Recently-formed non-governmental organisation ExcludedUK reacted to today's measures by acknowledging the generosity extended by the Chancellor today, to all those that have already enjoyed such support since late March 2020, through the extension of the 80% CJRS to end of March 2021 and a comparative adjustment of SEISS.

But, the pressure group added "once again we express extreme disappointment at the Chancellor's continued refusal to remotely acknowledge the plight of the three million UK taxpayers excluded from the Government's Covid-19 financial schemes."

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