Labour has urged the government to “stand up for businesses” through a Hospitality and High Streets Fightback Fund, aimed at supporting businesses hit by the recent Tier 4 restrictions.
It comes as almost 175,000 businesses in Tier 4 areas across London, the South East and the East of England have been “rocked” by last-minute instructions to close. Affected businesses include more than 45,000 retail businesses including clothes shops, homeware and book shops.
According to Labour, many of these businesses will have “stocked up and taken bookings for the crucial Christmas trading period, and now face a black hole in their finances”.
It added that the majority of these businesses can only access an emergency cash grant worth around half or a third of the support offered during the first national lockdown in March.
In light of this, the party has called for the £2bn in business rates relief recently returned by major supermarkets to be “urgently redeployed” into a Hospitality and High Streets Fightback Fund to help struggling businesses and those excluded from support.
Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow Business Secretary said: “Businesses are facing a Christmas nightmare on the high street, forced to close at the last minute by Tier 4 restrictions.
“Many shops, leisure and beauty businesses just getting back on their feet have had the rug pulled from under them, joining struggling restaurants and pubs already shut.”
He added: “Businesses are doing the right thing and closing to keep people safe, but Ministers are not doing the right thing by them. We need these businesses on the other side of the crisis but the support is hopelessly inadequate, and the Business Secretary seems to be asleep at the wheel.
“The government can’t keep leaving businesses in the lurch like this. Ministers must urgently boost support for closed businesses through a Hospitality and High Street Fund to save businesses and jobs now.”