Sheffield councillors and business leaders call for urgent support as 'Plan B' Covid measures bite
Sheffield councillors and business leaders have joined a call for urgent financial support to soften the blow to Christmas trading from new Covid guidelines.
Sheffield BID, which represents city centre businesses, is calling on government to provide new grants to the sector and re-introduce the discretionary fund that was administered by local authorities.
Diane Jarvis, head of business operations, said there had been a ‘marginal’ increase in visitor numbers in Sheffield last week.
But since then ‘Plan B’ measures had been introduced amid a surge in Omicron variant figures which will have a ‘devastating impact’.
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They include requiring a vaccine passport, or proof of a negative test, to go to nightclubs and football matches.
Face masks are now compulsory in most indoor public venues, except pubs or restaurants. And people should work from home ‘if they can’.
Diane added: “The new measures will have a devastating impact on those industries who have borne the brunt of restrictions over the past 18 months, and who are now being asked to do so again.
“This is one of the most important times of the year for many. ‘Plan B’ is likely to reduce consumer confidence and will undoubtedly mean the cancellation of Christmas parties and gatherings during the festive period and a very hard January for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.”
Coun Paul Turpin, executive member for inclusive economy, jobs and skills at Sheffield City Council, said the Additional Restrictions Grant scheme was set up in November last year and government encouraged local authorities to ‘spend it quickly’.
That meant there was nothing available now – and he called on ministers to provide more.
He added: “The Government needs to recognise that the initial funding provided only goes so far and that further support is crucial to help our businesses manage the challenges they are facing once again.
“Our Business Sheffield team has supported businesses throughout the pandemic and we continue to provide help and advice, and have retained specialist advisors who proactively engage with businesses on the High Street to help them manage through these difficult times.”
Coun Mazher Iqbal, executive member for city futures: development, culture and regeneration, said: “As we head towards Christmas, we continue to work hard to make sure that people can enjoy the city centre; shopping locally, and visiting all the magical festivities safely and in line with Covid restrictions.
“As always, we’re asking people to be considerate – please wear a mask where required, take a test if they have symptoms and isolate to protect others.”
Earlier this week, Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for financial support for businesses ‘to ensure they continue to survive this latest stage of the pandemic’.
He says it is ‘vital’ sick pay is bolstered and made available to all workers, including those on ‘precarious’ contracts. Some 2m workers aren't eligible for sick pay including a third of those on zero hours contracts, he states. And seven in 10 are women.
Contact Business Sheffield for advice or support on 0114 224 5000 or [email protected]