QUESTIONS remain over what targeted support will be available to businesses in York and North Yorkshire as details slowly emerge of Boris Johnson's plans to ease the country out of lockdown.

Andrew Digwood, president of the York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, who is a partner at York law firm Rollits, is calling for reassurances that help will be provided for businesses most severely hit by any ongoing restrictions.

"We will of course need to wait see the detail of what the Prime Minister’s 'roadmap' out of lockdown entails, and the speed with which the vaccination programme has so far been rolled out is really encouraging," he said.

"But for businesses in our city and our region, I believe that some of the most important questions still remain those which were posed by British Chambers of Commerce on behalf of Chamber members nationally in their 'Business Tests' for Covid restrictions, with which they challenged the Government last autumn.

"These include some reassurance that business support which is targeted and commensurate with any continuing restrictions will remain in place, especially for those businesses that will continue to be most severely affected by forced closures.

"BCC’s tests also asked for transparency around the timing and triggers for moving into and out of restrictions, and adequate time for businesses to prepare and respond to any such changes - that continues to be essential.

"Businesses can’t be presented with short-notice cliff edges by the Government - whether that’s to impose or indeed to lift restrictions, or for the financial support that has so far been provided to come to an end.

"We would hope that schemes which have so far been essential to keeping many otherwise resilient and fundamentally sound business going during lockdown and tiered restrictions will not suddenly be withdrawn, leaving businesses trying to get up to full speed from a standing start, amidst what’s likely to be an uncertain market and with additional indebtedness that they’ve taken on to see them through the difficult times.

"As we saw at some points last year, being told 'you can now trade, but subject to severe continuing restrictions' can be at least as challenging as not being able to trade at all."


David Kerfoot, Chair of the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said he hoped the announcements would give a longer term view on the way forward.

"We need to prioritise safety and be sure that we’re coming out of lockdown for the last time.

"A clear roadmap is a priority over speed. Businesses need that confidence and clarity from government to plan effectively.

“This will be a difficult balancing act.

Many businesses will be concerned about the end of furlough and an extension on business rates relief. For our region, visitor economy is a huge driver, the potential long term impacts of missing a second Easter could be catastrophic.

"It essential that we have strong and clear leadership and realistic timeline so that businesses can adapt.”