Hartlepool businesses welcome budget help to get back on feet - but MP accuses Chancellor of papering over cracks
Businesses in Hartlepool welcomed financial support announced in the budget to help firms recover from the Covid pandemic.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled new grants for hospitality and non-essential businesses together with an extension of the furlough scheme and business rates ‘holiday’.
For pubs and restaurants he also confirmed that the 5% reduction on VAT will be extended for another six months until the end of September.
After June the business rates break will be discounted by two thirds for a further nine months.
Darab Rezai chairman of Hartlepool Licensees Association, said the announcements were ‘excellent news’.
He said: “It seems the Chancellor has taken the right steps to let growth take place.
"The extension of the furlough scheme is good as it gives the opportunity for people to stay in their jobs.”
Mr Rezai added it was very important the retail sector was supported too adding: “Our customers come from all different sectors and people have got to be able to go out and have a meal or a drink.”
From April, new restart grants will be provided to businesses at up to £6,000 for non-essential retail and £18,000 for hospitality and leisure including personal care and gyms.
Janice Auton, owner of Poppys Hairdressing in Hartlepool, said: “What more could we ask for?”
She particularly welcomed a doubling of payments for new apprentices to £3,000 saying: “This is the first year I haven’t been able to employ an apprentice so it’s a great incentive.”
Janice, who is part of the Totally Locally Hartlepool business network, said the Chancellor’s announcements will also be good news for many small businesses in the town.
"Who would have thought the Government would actually give us grants at the levels they’re going to?” she said.
Town MP Mike Hill said it was good to see the furlough scheme extended and £20 a week uplift on Universal Credit maintained, but pointed out they and other measures are time limited.
He said: “With unemployment currently at 5% and rising we needed a budget to protect the foundations of our economy long term; not a budget that simply papers over the cracks.
"The budget failed on many fronts, not least on tackling pay freezes for key workers, addressing the future of social care and tackling poverty pay.”