Responding to the announcement of a fresh easing of lockdown restrictions in England from July 4, FSB’s Greater Manchester Area Lead, Anne Lambelin, said:
“This is the day thousands of restaurants, hairdressers, pubs, hotels and cinemas have been craving since lockdown began. So many business owners will be breathing a huge sigh of relief at this news, and we’d encourage everyone to support their local small businesses over the weeks ahead as more and more are able to reopen.
“This has been an incredibly difficult time, but there is now some light at the end of the tunnel. While we don’t normally celebrate the fourth of July in this country, this year will be different and it can’t come soon enough!:”
She also welcomed the relaxation of 2m social distancing, adding: “One in five small firms that had to close due to lockdown restrictions, and have remained shut, say they cannot reopen as long as current rules, including the two-metre benchmark, remain in place. Among small firms across the current guidance, more than one in four say initial reopening costs are in excess of £1,000.
“Small businesses tend to be in small premises – they don’t have wide isles or big car parks to help them manage queues – so the two metre rule has proven to be especially prohibitive.
“The new ‘one metre plus’ approach should help many to get back to business in a way that means they can turn a profit, particularly across the leisure and hospitality industries. But it will mean new costs for small firms as they invest in screens, face coverings, hand sanitiser and other protective measures. The Government should come forward with back to work vouchers to help businesses recover these costs.
“Clear and easily accessible guidance for all small businesses is now a must, and we look forward to its imminent publication, particularly as 4 July is only ten days away.
“It’s also positive to hear the Prime Minister speak optimistically about the reopening prospects for gyms, nail bars and nightclubs that have not been given the ok today. This is still an especially difficult situation for these firms, and we look forward to seeing them reopening once it’s safe to do so.
“The Chancellor thankfully put together an ambitious package of emergency support measures to help small businesses when the lockdown took effect. As we look to emerge from this recession, the small firms that make-up 99% of our business community must be front and centre of recovery plans, with support measures for those excluded from emergency initiatives reconsidered.
“It’s important to remember that many will see already thin margins squeezed even further as they look to operate within the confines of the ‘new normal’. We must ensure sure that the many firms which have taken huge hits to their balance sheets can recover.”