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Stratford businesses 'staring into abyss' as Lockdown 3 hits

Trading conditions in an already disastrous year hit a new low when Warwickshire went into Tier 4 on the penultimate day of 2020.

But worse was to come this week with the announcement of Lockdown 3, with no immediate indication of when traders and hospitality outlets might open again.

And the number of businesses closed or facing an uncertain future is growing, according to Joe Baconnet, director of business improvement organisation Stratforward.

He told the Herald: “A number are staring into the abyss and they really don’t know when they will be able to trade at a decent level.”

He said the flimsy financial support this time round was “hard to stomach”, although Stratforward is lobbying for more help. He added: “It makes no sense for government not to fully support businesses now, when they have given money early on and encouraged literally hundreds of thousands of businesses to take government-backed bounce-back loans.”

Mr Baconnet speculated that some of these loans would never be paid back, adding: “I’m not sure the government has got its sums right. No one has said this, but they may now be calculating for a percentage loss of businesses in the UK economy and writing off value from the loan book.”

Many in the hospitality industry across the district have voiced their despair over the continued uncertainty.

Flair Gougoulia, who owns El Greco and represents restaurants on the Stratforward board, told of how she felt after the latest lockdown announcement.

“There is now just an increased sense of despair. Any hope of opening soon has been kicked down the road so much that we can no longer see the can.

“Our local hospitality businesses have now had no income for two months, including December, the month that traditionally gives us enough income to get through the quiet winter months. Even the most successful businesses are on their knees.”

She added: “The chancellor’s promise of additional financial support earlier this week is too little, too late for. The average fixed costs for a hospitality business currently shut is around £15,000 a month. Even if you are eligible for the full new grant of £9,000, it will only cover around 60 per cent of costs for a month.

“We are in the tenth month of this crisis and that is simply not going to be enough to hold back the tsunami of business failures that is now on the horizon. We need a lifebelt and we need it now.”

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