The second lockdown will be ‘absolutely brutal’ for Island businesses according to Norman Arnold, spokesman for the IW branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
Mr Arnold spoke to the IW Observer after the whole of England went into lockdown last week and the Chancellor announced that the furlough scheme is to be extended until the end of March next year. He said: “This is very frustrating timing for businesses, when it could perhaps have been a shorter lockdown a few weeks ago taking in the half-term break.
“Having to close for a month is going to be absolutely brutal for independent local retailers. The extension of the furlough scheme until the end of March is worrying, it sends a message that this is not going to be over anytime soon. We are going to have lots of businesses across lots of sectors that are going to be very seriously affected.
“We have a high percentage of self-employed people on the Island – in many, many cases they are their business. These very small businesses are not being looked after properly in all of this, many of them have had no government support at all. The government are being unrealistic, people need help not more red tape.
However he had praise for the Isle of Wight Council’s work in getting government support out to those that qualified for it, saying: “I was seriously impressed with how the local authority handled a very difficult situation and how they are gearing up to support people during this latest lockdown. It is easy to knock them, and although they distributed large sums of money quickly and efficiently – it was small beer in the overall scheme of things. It is getting harder and harder for people to manage.”
John Allen, President of the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce agreed. He said: “There’s no getting around the fact that these new restrictions will be a devastating blow to Island businesses who have done everything in their power to adapt and operate safely. We welcome the extension of the furlough scheme and the support grants that are being made available, but we fear that this will not be enough for some businesses, particularly in retail and hospitality, for whom this would have been a crucial month. We look forward to prompt payment of the grants by the Council and will continue to lobby for support where this is not enough and for businesses that are not covered by the new arrangements.”
Mr Arnold issued a heartfelt plea for Islanders in the run-up to Christmas: “Please think carefully about where you spend your money. It’s so important that we keep money on the Island, supporting our special and unique independent Island businesses. Amazon are not going to help the Island and Islanders get through this dreadful situation – we need to stick together.”
The IW FSB are running a survey asking all Island businesses for their experience of the Covid-19 pandemic and what they feel they need to get through it. The results will be used to inform the local authority when making policy and be fed back to the government by Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely.
The survey is available until November 13 at smartsurvey.co.uk/s/IOWSBS.