Anger as Johnson leaves firms high and dry

Furious business chiefs stepped up calls for far-reaching taxpayer support on Tuesday after Boris Johnson imposed six months of new restrictions but left companies out on a limb.

The demands came as Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey also called for a “rethink” of the furlough scheme protecting more than 3m jobs but due to end on October 31.

Mr Johnson said the Government would be “throwing its arms” around businesses and households while Chancellor Rishi Sunak would be “applying his imagination and creativity” to help the worst-hit sectors.

Industry sources said options under consideration include further VAT and business rates deferrals, as well as a much more restricted furlough including higher barriers to entry and possible clawback of funds, although no decisions have been made.

However, the PM’s 10pm curfews on pubs and restaurants – tougher than in Germany and France – and tighter limits on gatherings to fight the virus without further details on support were greeted with shock.

Premier Inn owner Whitbread and pubs chain JD Wetherspoon became the latest to slash staff yesterday in a sign of the crisis facing the sector, announcing 6,500 job cuts.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the measures amounted to a “hospitality lockdown in all but name”.

“To suggest that these measures could be in place for another six months without any hint of support for businesses directly affected was quite startling,” she said.

“Six months wipes out all of your Christmas trade and a third of hospitality revenue is generated between Halloween and New Year’s Eve.”

Josh Hardie, the CBI deputy director-general, added: “If measures have to be put in place to stop a devastating second wave they’ve got to be done, but in order to protect jobs that needs to come hand in hand with clarity on business support. That is what will help businesses protect jobs.

“We’ve also got to make the six-month shutdown shorter and the best way of doing that is to turbo-charge testing. Let’s have a national challenge with business and government working together to improve capacity.”

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