Portsmouth businesses ask Rishi Sunak for targeted support alongside proposed £5bn budget restart grants

BUSINESSES across Portsmouth have welcomed the government’s proposed £5bn restart grant scheme – but traders are looking for widespread support in next week’s budget.

Sunday, 28th February 2021, 4:00 pm
Updated Sunday, 28th February 2021, 5:48 pm

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to announce a new £5bn grant scheme in his budget this coming Wednesday, offering a lifeline to pubs, hotels and other businesses most affected by Covid-19.

Businesses across Portsmouth say the scheme will offer much needed relief, but they face a host of challenges that need addressing.

For Brian Salt, who has run the Fratton Model Centre in Fratton Road for more than 30 years, the chancellor also needs to address the ‘unfair’ playing field for online retailers and small High Street shops.

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Brian Salt of Fratton Model Centre on November 12, 2020. Picture: Habibur Rahman

He said: ‘If you took my business’ losses and multiplied them by every other business in the country, they wouldn't be able to cover it.

'Usually in January, we have £1,000 in takings every day. This year, there have been days where we have sold two tins of paint at £4.40 each.'

‘They have shut down us down - what do people do? They buy online. They have found that it can be more convenient.

‘Tax the online sellers properly - level the playing field.

‘I know they have tried to tax the big companies and I know it is difficult, but until they do it, the High Street will die.'

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Other businesses have concerns about covering staffing costs when they reopen with restrictions in place.

Chrissy Sloan, who took over The Milton Arms pub in Milton Road last year, said: ‘With staff coming back and having to do table service and having fewer customers in, it's going to be tough. So helping with wages would be great.

‘But the fact that the chancellor has announced further grants is a massive, massive help.

‘Just having the bills covered would be a massive weight off our minds.’

The owner of Hardysalon, in Lord Montgomery Way, said he had no expectations for the government to cover lost profits, with his business losing 50 per cent of its trade last year.

Regarding the additional grants, David Beavan said: ‘It’s better than nothing.

‘Extending the VAT deferral scheme would be useful, as we’ve spent the beginning of the year in lockdown.’

MP for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, called for the government to listen to the city’s businesses when formulating policies.

The MP said: ‘The government must listen to businesses. They tell me to date the support offered by ministers has not gone far enough.

‘That is why I have been calling for an extension of the furlough scheme, action to address business debt, and an extension of the business rates holiday and VAT cut for hospitality, retail and leisure for at least six months.’

As the government rolls out its support, Portsmouth City Council must ensure that grant funding is distributed as quickly as possible, according to Penny Mordaunt, the MP for Portsmouth North,

The MP for Portsmouth North said: ‘Access to capital, help with overheads and cash flow is vital to keep our firms going.

‘The £5bn fund will really help a huge number of our shops, restaurants, salons, gyms, and many others.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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