Small businesses ‘left with more questions than answers’

Rowena Howie, retailer at The Revival Retro Boutique
Rowena Howie, retailer at The Revival Retro Boutique

Rishi Sunak has unveiled a series of measures to shore up jobs and businesses against a second wave of the virus. 

But what do small businesses think of the package? The Telegraph spoke to four business owners on the frontline. 

Rowena Howie, retailer at The Revival Retro Boutique

Revival Retro owner Rowena Howie
Revival Retro owner Rowena Howie

While I welcomed the measures that will help small businesses like mine I was still left with more questions than answers.

I’ve worked so hard to protect jobs, save my business, pay suppliers and build resilience among my network of self employed freelancers, yet still as a director of a company, there is nothing to acknowledge that I’m doing a job and I need to get paid.

Some of the targeted support will definitely benefit my small business, specifically the extension to repayments of my Bounce Back Loan and Pay as you Grow, but the future is still very uncertain.

I already had to make one redundancy last week, but I really hope I won’t have to make any more.

I think it has required them to move at a pace no government is used to and I applaud swift action. However, the lack of consistency in their messaging has been to great detriment in how the public responds to controlling the virus now and our ability to recover economically and culturally in the future.

Jamie Shail, hotelier at Rothay Manor

Rothay Manor owner Jamie Shail
Rothay Manor owner Jamie Shail

Rishi Sunak has done what he needed to do to save many jobs over the coming months.

That being said, I would have liked to hear something further on business rents and rates, given the impact to hospitality in cities.

Unfortunately, the recent restrictions on opening hours for restaurants has seen an increase in uncertainty, and a large reduction in our capacity, the uncertainty has already seen a drop in bookings and an increase in cancellations.

We will benefit from the scheme, mainly from the extension of the VAT reduction, which is very welcome.

As a small hotel and restaurant, we don’t have the ability to take advantage of the reduced hours top-up scheme as we need the same number of staff across the whole year. And while the Pay as you Grow changes on the government-backed loans will help all this does is move the problem to a later date.

We’re in a good enough position not to need to make redundancies, and have no plans to, and I hope this doesn’t change.

Charlotte Gatward, Gatwards of Hitchin

Gatwards of Hitchin owner Charlotte Gatward
Gatwards of Hitchin owner Charlotte Gatward

The changes to the furlough scheme will be welcome in the sectors that are the hardest hit, and the extension to the loan schemes, Pay as you Grow and deferred tax are all excellent as cash flow is the big problem for many small businesses as consumer confidence is low and there is huge uncertainty for the months ahead.

However, these changes have come too late. While we may benefit from the new job retention scheme as we have had two team members still on furlough, I’ve already had to let one go.

The spreading payments of tax and loan repayments are helpful, with any boost to cash flow is very welcome at this time.

We hope and pray we won’t have to close again but we are doing everything we can to boost our online presence so we can weather the storm.

November and December are normally our busiest trading months – we just do not know how things will pan out this year – if customers are fearful, they won’t come to the high street. 

Aaron Wilson, The Bow Bells Pub

The Bow Bells in East London
The Bow Bells in East London

I’m relieved by the continued support from the government – the idea of a drop-off after October was a concern, especially in light of the 10pm curfew coming in.

The VAT repayment extension will help cash flow, especially with the reduction of trading hours and any potential dip in trade through a partial lockdown.  

We took out a Bounce Back Loan back in April when we still had no idea when and if we would reopen, so it was always in the back of my mind that this could go on for another year or more and we would have to start paying back. The extension has definitely relieved some of that pressure.

That being said, the next six months are going to be tough.

These new policies will certainly help but going into the winter months alone was always going to be hard. The current restrictions are going to have a big impact on trade, and if these tighten even further who knows what will happen.

Read more on jobs support
Read more on jobs support

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