Fears raised that Northumberland businesses could miss out on Covid grants

Cleaners, driving instructors and hairdressers are among the businesses fearing they could miss out from the government’s latest Covid support.

By James Harrison
Wednesday, 22nd December 2021, 3:03 pm

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled a package worth £1 billion to support firms hit this winter by the latest surge in coronavirus infections.

But with most of this expected to target pubs, restaurants and arts venues, concerns have been raised about the others which could fall through the cracks.

“Small businesses don’t trust that we will get the help that we need,” said Rachel Douglas, part of the LA7 Excluded group of North East firms lobbying for more support.

“We still haven’t recovered from the last lockdown.

“The help we got was too late then and we’re only just back on a level footing, but we still haven’t replenished our reserves to be able to deal with another winter without income.”

Douglas, who runs a cleaning firm in Seahouses, claims she has seen a small increase in business recently, as foreign travel restrictions forced many to rearrange planned trips, opting to stay in the UK instead.

But she fears further restrictions could wipe this out.

Others have even fewer reasons to be cheerful.

According to Douglas, a driving instructor involved in the LA7 Excluded group has lost income after pupils were forced to cancel lessons due to positive Covid tests.

“Supply chain” traders to the hospitality industry, such as nail technicians, hair stylists and clothes sellers have been hit by the cancellation of Christmas parties, as many opt to self-moderate their behaviour due to rising infection rates driven by the Omicron variant.

Among the measures announced by the government were one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the hospitality and leisure sector.

A further £100m in “discretionary funding” is also due to be handed to local authorities.

Douglas added: “Any business which can demonstrate a downturn because of a Covid-related issue [should be entitled to support].

“There needs to be a grant for small businesses, not sector specific, just for anyone affected by a Covid-related downturn.”

A spokesman for Northumberland County Council said: “We await more information from the government on details of eligibility and the administration of the grants and further information will be communicated to local businesses, including the ways to apply for support, when more details are available.”