Yorkshire’s leaders call for more retail support as COVID-19 restrictions come into effect

Yorkshire’s leaders have written to the government calling for further support to help the region’s businesses get through winter as additional restrictions come into effect.

In a letter to Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, council leaders from across Yorkshire and the Humber have expressed concern over the economic impact of the measures to tackle COVID-19 and the ability for many businesses to remain open without additional support.  

The letter highlights that the Christmas trading period is crucial for many businesses and their suppliers, with some retailers and hospitality businesses making up to 40% of their annual turnover at this time of year.  

Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and Co-Chair of the Yorkshire Leaders Board, said: “As we emerge from the second national lockdown and into Tier 3 of local restrictions, we’ve made the case to government that it’s essential we have the right support in place, for not just for retail but also for their supply chain.  

“The situation for our retailers, both big and small, national chains and independents, is getting critical and the next few weeks of the Christmas trading period will be make or break for many of them.  

“Our businesses have shown themselves to be incredibly resilient, innovative and entrepreneurial this year, and support is needed now to make sure they’re ready for better times ahead.” 

Cllr Carl Les Leader, North Yorkshire County Council and Co-Chair of the  Yorkshire Leaders Board, said: “The welfare of our businesses and communities is at the forefront of our efforts to respond to the pandemic and recover from its effects. The approval of the first vaccination is welcome news and begins to pave the way to recovery; however, we stand at a pivotal juncture and what happens now will determine the future for many of our businesses.  

“Taking the necessary and adequate steps to bridge the gap to keep businesses alive and people employed will pay for itself in the long term. We believe there is a strong case for continued discretionary funding for businesses in all areas, especially the hardest hit ones.” 

Across the region, South and West Yorkshire and the Humber are subject to Tier 3 restrictions, while North Yorkshire is under Tier 2. Large parts of South and West Yorkshire have also been under additional restrictions since before the second national lockdown began in November.   

While support has been made available, the letter says this does not address many of the costs faced by business, and highlights the gaps in the support system for the self-employed and freelancers. 

It asks for “fair and proportionate” support that takes the restrictions into account in order to make sure businesses can survive until trading conditions can return to normal.  

In a paper submitted alongside the letter, Yorkshire and the Humber’s leaders set out proposals for increased support, including certainty around future funding when current support runs out and increased discretionary funding that reflects the reality that some businesses have faced higher restrictions for longer than others.  

It also calls for targeted support for retailers, the hospitality and leisure sector and their suppliers, recognising the impact restrictions will have on them during what is normally their busiest time of the year. 

The Yorkshire Leaders Board letter to Robert Jenrick MP can be read here and the supporting paper can be read here.