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Shropshire business leaders welcome support against coronavirus

By James Pugh | Business | Published:

Business leaders in Shropshire have welcomed the Government’s support to help firms survive during the coronavirus pandemic.

Karen Lee of The Walnut in Wellington

The support, which includes £330 billion in loans, £20 billion in other aid, a business rates holiday, and grants for retailers and pubs, is hoped to save jobs and prevent businesses closing for good.

Karen Lee, owner of The Walnut restaurant in Wellington, said: “On hearing the packages being made available by the Government, it did give a glimmer of hope to us small businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry. We are in contact with our suppliers, bank and financial advisers with regards to these benefits and how to claim them.

“I have no doubt that this will mean staff losses which genuinely breaks my heart, but the aim is to survive in some way, shape or form.”

On Friday, cafes, pubs and restaurants were told to close by the Government, but many are now offering takeaway and home delivery services.

“We are now doing deliveries of home-cooked food to our customers in lunchtime and evenings, and delivering boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables and essential supplies which are keeping us busy.

“With the support of the Government and our wonderful customers I am hopeful that we will weather these unprecedented times and come back stronger,” Karen added.

Shrewsbury BID (Business Improvement District) said the proposed cash grants of up to £25,000 for smaller retail, leisure and hospitality businesses would be a major boost for independent traders in the town centre.

Seb Slater, executive director of Shrewsbury BID, said: “These are unprecedented times for all of us, and things are especially tough for town centre businesses who were still reeling from the devastating floods when the coronavirus pandemic started.

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“Although it is encouraging to hear the Government saying it will do whatever it takes to support the economy, small business owners are understandably concerned about the immediate future of their business – as well as the longer-term consequences.

“The BID is sharing information and advice with our members on a regular basis about the Government grants that are being made available, and we are in close contact with the councils and industry partners about other avenues of potential support.

“We need to see more information from the Government about how businesses can urgently access these funds straight away.”

Shrewsbury BID has established a series of closed Facebook groups for town centre businesses to share information about their trading hours, or any concerns or ideas they may have about the current situation.

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Seb added: “We have set up three groups – one for retailers, one for hospitality and leisure businesses, and one for office and professional services.

“Anyone working for a business in Shrewsbury is invited to join and contribute to the groups which will be sharing information and support.”

Shaun Carvill, managing director of Bridgnorth-based web design company Clickingmad, said: “The financial support and measures announced by the Government will provide significant help to businesses at this uncertain and challenging time. What’s really important now though is that businesses know when and how they can access this financial support.”

Anton Gunter, managing director at Global Freight Services in Telford, said: “The announcement of a £350 billion package of measures to support local businesses sends a strong signal from the Government that they are doing what they can to shore up the economy.

“Right now business owners across all sectors need as much help as they can get and the support loans will provide an urgent lifeline to many.

“However, that said, it would have been good to see a larger proportion of grant support being made available to businesses rather than loans. At some point, those businesses which survive the crisis will have to pay this money back and this could place an extra financial burden on business owners as they try to rebuild their livelihoods.”

John Merry, head of employment at law firm, Lanyon Bowdler, welcomed the job retention scheme, which, in basic terms, will cover 80 per cent of payments to employees up to a total of £2,500 per month, back-dated to March 1. He said: “Whilst full details are awaited, what is clear is that this will be a game changer for many businesses and their employees. It might not only prevent future dismissals, but some employers might look to withdraw notices of dismissal that have already been given, or re-engage employees who have already been dismissed.

“I am speaking with a range of businesses about how these new measures will be implemented and what happens next."

James Pugh

By James Pugh
@JamesP_Star

Shropshire Star Business and Farming Editor.

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