UPDATED: There are now over a million business premises shut down across the UK, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.
Many of these small businesses have “no cash reserves left”, according to the FSB, having invested heavily in making themselves Covid secure.
Meanwhile, business group UK Hospitality said that the sector has been “effectively shut down” from today, following yesterday’s widening of Tier 4 restrictions to much of the rest of Britain, which limits pubs, cafes and restaurants to takeaway only.
Three quarters of the population of England are now living under Tier 4 rules, which also require non-essential retailers such as clothing and homeware stores, gyms and hair and beauty salons to close.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, has called for new support grants and the extension of the reduced VAT rate and the business rates holiday beyond March if the government wants to avoid “hundreds and thousands of job losses”.
On Tuesday, FSB chairman Mike Cherry wrote to Rishi Sunak proposing a five-point package including converting Covid emergency debt into shares for small business employees, another round of grants and a German-style lost income reimbursement system.
Craig Beaumont, the FSB’s external affairs chief, said the “intensification of restrictions must lead to an intensification of support for those affected”.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, meanwhile has called for targeted financial support for non-essential retailers, along with the extension of business rates holiday.
Meanwhile, all non-essential shops in Wales shut on Boxing Day mirroring England’s Tier 4 restrictions, while Scotland and Northern Ireland went into their own three-week and six-week lockdowns respectively from December 26.
As for what help is available, the government extended the furlough scheme to the end of April. Furlough covers to 80 per cent of staff wages for hours not worked.
Businesses forced to shut can also claim grants of up to £3,000 a month. However, local authorities are still working through distributing grants from November’s national lockdown, let alone gearing up for another round of handout distribution.