Local MPs, Huw Merriman and Sally-Ann Hart, welcomed yesterday’s announcement that the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been protecting local jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, will be extended until the end of October.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would be extended until the end of October and a new flexibility will be introduced from August which will allow employees to return to work part-time.
Huw Merriman, MP for the Bexhill and Battle constituency said “I know from my regular contact with businesses in the constituency that they will welcome the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of October as it brings certainty that government support will continue as they gradually and carefully re-open for business. Both I, and my neighbouring MP, Sally-Ann Hart, are particularly pleased to learn that, from August there will be more flexibility in the scheme. We have been lobbying the Chancellor for this on behalf of our local businesses, especially those in the hospitality and leisure sector who are significant employers in our constituencies. This sector told us they will need to re-open in phases so I am really pleased that, from August, the furlough scheme will deliver the ability to do this.
Sally-Ann Hart, MP for Hastings and Rye, said “I am so pleased with the Chancellor’s announcement yesterday. He has shown that the government clearly understands the need to introduce flexibility to the furlough scheme. It means that local employers can start to rebuild their businesses and bring staff back into the workplace as and when they are needed and it is safe to do so.”
In addition, the MPs were pleased that their calls for more flexibility in the business grants scheme had also been heard. The Business Secretary Alok Sharma and Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Simon Clarke spoke to local authorities in England on 2 May to set out that up to £617 million would be made available. This is an additional 5% uplift to the £12.33 billion funding previously announced for the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants Fund (RHLGF).
Local authorities have been asked to prioritise businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief, and bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates. But local authorities can choose to make payments to other businesses based on local economic need. The allocation of funding will be at the discretion of local authorities.
Huw said “I know that Rother and Wealden District Council have been keen to support local businesses that fell outside of the business rates-linked grants scheme. This new discretionary fund allows them the flexibility to do so. I am pleased that district and borough councils across East Sussex are now working together to deliver the grants and in fair and consistent way. This new scheme clearly demonstrates that the government has listened to our calls for more help for business.”
Sally-Ann added “Huw and I have listened carefully to our local businesses since the lockdown started to see what more can be done to help them. We have championed their calls for more support to ensure that their businesses survive and local people have jobs to return to. I am delighted that these recent announcements show that our lobbying has been effective.”