BUSINESSES hit by the pandemic are being urged to tap into the latest support outlined by the Chancellor in his bid to protect jobs.

Rishi Sunak unveiled his winter economy plans after new restrictions were introduced to curb the spread of coronavirus.

A Jobs Support Scheme will replace the furlough scheme from November to subsidise wages for six months of people forced to cut their hours.

Businesses will be able to keep staff on shorter hours, rather than making them redundant.

The Government will top up the wages of people working at least a third of their normal hours.York Press:

They will be paid for that work as normal, with the state and employers increasing those wages to cover two-thirds of the pay they have lost by working reduced hours.

This is aimed at small and medium-sized firms, and only for big companies if turnover has fallen by a third.

Sunak also extended the self-employment income support scheme and help for businesses in repaying government-backed loans.

Companies now have 10 years to repay loans, rather than six, almost halving repayments.

Interest-only payments can be made, while struggling firms can suspend payouts.

The chancellor will allow businesses to spread their VAT bills over 11 separate payments.

Carolyn Frank, of North Yorkshire FSB, said: "This announcement gives businesses additional support to survive into 2021, but we know despite the additional help, they will still find it very tough, so the question is whether this is enough?

"Even more help will be needed if restrictions continue and there remain sectors excluded from support who are experiencing hardship.

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"We know from businesses in York and North Yorkshire that they were concerned about taking on more debt, or paying back loans already taken, so the flexibility with “pay as you grow” will be a great relief to them, and the extension of lending guarantees on emergency finance.

"York relies on its independent retailers and especially tourism and hospitality and these areas have been worst affected, also the arts and events industries, and I believe the maintenance of the five cent VAT rate for tourism was essential and will be welcomed by the sector.”

“Full details are still to emerge, but the extension of the SEISS scheme gives the self-employed an equivalent support to those employed going forward which is of course right – we hope that this is opened up to those excluded from support to date, who were not mentioned specifically today including company directors and the newly self-employed.

"Local FSB members have reacted positively to the Chancellor, but with the proviso that this is just the start of support needed, and that there must be more to come.”

For the hospitality and tourism sectors, Sunak extended the five per cent VAT until March 31, 2021.

But John Lowery, whose York-based events company stages the York Balloon Fiesta, said that was 'pointless if that sector can't properly operate until after March'.

Andrew Digwood, president of the York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “There is clearly a need for a new generation of support to help protect livelihoods and ease the cash pressures faced by firms as they head into a challenging and uncertain winter.

“The furlough scheme, which has been a massive success in retaining jobs, closes at the end of October and the Chancellor has responded to our consistent feedback and concerns with substantial steps that will help companies preserve jobs and navigate through the coming months.

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"The new Jobs Support Scheme will help many companies hold on to valued and skilled employees. Businesses will be eager to see the detail and consider whether and how they will be able to use the scheme.

“Extension of business lending schemes, more flexible repayment terms for loans, and tax forbearance measures are also welcome. It was also good to hear an extension of support for our beleaguered hospitality sector.

"We know from our own research that almost 40% of firms say they have three months cash in reserve or less, so today’s announcement should lessen the immediate pressure and provide reassurance for many affected firms in these challenging times.”

David Kerfoot, chair of York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "We urge businesses to ask for help, be that for business advice, for financial support, or for support for your own personal well-being at a time when anxiety is a likelihood for the vast majority of business owners."

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In a joint statement with Richard Shaw, chair of Y&NY LEP's Business Board, they said it was vital businesses were prepared ahead of any further economic downturn.

Reports suggested that take-up of the bounce back loan scheme was low in our region, despite small and micro businesses facing considerable cash flow issues, they said.

They urged businesses to take up the opportunity as 'a proactive precaution', as it could be repaid within 12 months with no interest of cost.

“Our concern for the economic health of businesses across York and North Yorkshire is considerable. As is our concern for those individuals and families who are at the heart of these businesses and our communities.

"We urge businesses to ask for help, be that for business advice, for financial support, or for support for your own personal well-being at a time when anxiety is a likelihood for the vast majority of business owners. Our Growth Hub can help."

Cllr Andrew Waller, Executive Member for Economy and Strategic Planning, at City of York Council, said the devil would be in the detail, but he hoped businesses would be able to utilise the new scheme.

He said further details were needed, particularly on the exclusion clauses, which had previously left many businesses and the self-employed excluded.   

“The hospitality industry, a major employer in the city, will welcome the extension of the 5% VAT rate to March, however this does not go near enough to providing the support that the industry will require in the face of evolving public health restrictions.

"Chancellor correctly recognised that cash flow is a key concern currently, with many businesses reporting that they are burning up any reserves that they had left to keep going. There is an urgent need for a more comprehensive package of support and recovery to save jobs and livelihoods.

“The run up to Christmas will be critical and therefore all steps to keep the retail and hospitality industries functioning is essential.

"Whilst the Council is working closely with the BID, The Retail Forum and city’s business leaders to ensure that the city centre remains a safe and welcoming space for all, this is also reliant on the Government being able to implement an effective and reliable Track and Trace programme, which would ensure that the public health risk in the city remains low.

“Today’s statement looked towards next spring, conveniently skipping over what will be the next major challenge for businesses across the country – the end of the Brexit transition period.  

"I would encourage businesses to contact the Council on if there are issues that need to be taken up regarding the recent announcements.”